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Alaska Days with John Muir 




New York Chicago Toronto 

Fleming H. Revell Company 

London and Edinburgh 

Copyright, 1915, by 

New York: 158 Fifth Avenue 
Chicago: 125 N. Wabash Ave. 
Toronto: 25 Richmond St., W. 
London: 21 Paternoster Square 
Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street 


I The Mountain 

II The Rescue 

III The Voyage . 

IV The Discovery 

V The Lost Glacier 

VI The Dog and the Man 
VII The Man in Perspective 










John Muir with Alaska Spruce Cones 

Fort Wrangell . . . . . .12 

The Mountain 24 

One of the Marvelous Array of Lakes . 40 

Glacier — Stickeen Valley .... 54 

Oiilcat Wcrnian Weaving a Blanket . . 82 

Muir Glacier 114 

Davidson Glacier 128 

Taku Glacier 150 

The Front of Muir Glacier . . . 168 

Glacial Crevasses 186 

John Muir in Later Life .... 200 

Map 70 

(Voyages of Muir and Young) 



Deep calm from God enfolds the land; 
Light on the mountain top I stand; 
How peaceful all, but ah, how grand! 

Low lies the bay beneath my feet; 
The bergs sail out, a white-winged fleet, 
To where the sky and ocean meet 

Their glacier mother sleeps between 
Her granite walls. The mountains lean 
Above her, trailing skirts of green. 

Each ancient brow is raised to heaven: 
The snow streams always, tempest-driven. 
Like hoary locks, o'er chasms riven 

By throes of Earth. But, still as sleep, 
No storm disturbs the quiet deep 
Where mirrored forms their silence keep. 

A heaven of light beneath the sea! 
A dream of worlds from shadow free! 
A pictured, bright eternity! 

The azure domes above, below 
(A crystal casket), hold and show. 
As precious jewels, gems of snow. 

Dark emerald islets, amethyst 

Of far horizon, pearls of mist 

In pendant clouds, clear icebergs, kissed 

By wavelets, — sparklins: diamonds rare 
Quick flashing through the ambient air. 
A ring of mountains, graven fair 

In lines of grace, encircles all. 
Save where the purple splendors fall 
On sky and ocean's bridal-hall. 

The yellow river, broad and fleet. 
Winds through its velvet meadows sweet— 
A chain of gold for jewels meet. 

Pours over all the sun's broad ray; 
Power, beauty, peace, in one array! 
My God, I thank Thee for this day. 


IN the summer of 1879 I was sta- 
tioned at Fort Wrangell in south- 
eastern Alaska, whence I had 
come the year before, a green young 
student fresh from college and semi- 
nary — very green and very fresh — to 
do what I could towards establishing 
the white man's civilization among 
the Thlinget Indians. I had very 
many things to learn and many more 
to unlearn. 

Thither came by the monthly mail 
steamboat in July to aid and counsel 
me in my work three men of national 
reputation — Dr. Henry Kendall of 
New York; Dr. Aaron L. Lindsley 
of Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Sheldon 

Jackson of Denver and the West. 


12 Alaska Days with John Muir 

Their wives accompanied them and 
they were to spend a month with 

Standing a little apart from them 
as the steamboat drew to the dock, 
his peering blue eyes already eagerly 
scanning the islands and mountains, 
was a lean, sinewy man of forty, with 
waving, reddish-brown hair and 
beard, and shoulders slightly stooped. 
He wore a Scotch cap and a long, 
gray tweed ulster, which I have al- 
ways since associated with him, and 
which seemed the same garment, un- 
soiled and unchanged, that he wore 
later on his northern trips. He was 
introduced as Professor Muir, the 
Naturalist. A hearty grip of the 
hand, and we seemed to coalesce at 
once in a friendship which, to me at 
least, has been one of the very best 
things I have known in a life full of 
blessings. From the first he was the 
strongest and most attractive of 


The Mountain 18 

these four fine personalities to me, 
and I began to recognize him as my 
Master who was to lead me into en- 
chanting regions of beauty and mys- 
tery, . which without his aid must 
forever have remained unseen by the 
eyes of my soul. I sat at his feet; 
and at the feet of his spirit I still sit, 
a student, absorbed, surrendered, as 
this " priest of Nature's inmost 
shrine " unfolds to me the secrets of 
his " mountains of God/' 

Minor excursions culminated in 
the chartering of the little steamer 
Cassiar, on which our party, aug- 
mented by two or three friends, 
steamed between the tremendous gla- 
ciers and through the columned can- 
yons of the swift Stickeen River 
through the narrow strip of Alaska's 
cup-handle to Glenora, in British 
Columbia, one hundred and fifty miles 
from the river's mouth. Our captain 
was Nat. Lane, a grandson of the 

14 Alaska Days with John Muir 

famous Senator Joseph Lane of Ore- 
gon. Stocky, broad-shouldered, mus- 
cular, given somewhat to strange 
oaths and strong liquids, and eying 
askance our group as we struck the 
bargain, he was withal a genial, good- 
natured man, and a splendid river 

Dropping down from Telegraph 
Creek (so named because it was a 
principal station of the great pro- 
jected trans-American and trans- 
Siberian line of the Western Union, 
that bubble pricked by Cyrus Field^s 
cable), we tied up at Glenora about 
noon of a cloudless day. 

"Amuse yourselves,*' said Captain 
Lane at lunch. " Here we stay till 
two o'clock to-morrow morning. 
This gale, blowing from the sea, 
makes safe steering through the Can- 
yon impossible, unless we take the 
morning's calm." 

I saw Muir's eyes light up with a 

The Mountain 15 

peculiar meaning as he glanced 
quickly at me across the table. He 
knew the leading strings I was in; 
how those well-meaning D.D.s and 
their motherly wives thought they 
had a special mission to suppress all 
my self-destructive proclivities to- 
ward dangerous adventure^ and es- 
pecially to protect me from " that 
wild Muir** and his hare-brained 
schemes of mountain climbing. 

" Where is it ? " I asked, as we met 
behind the pilot house a moment 

He pointed to a little group of 
jagged peaks rising right up from 
where we stood — a pulpit in the cen- 
ter of a vast rotunda of magnificent 
mountains. " One of the finest view- 
points in the world," he said. 

" How far to the highest point ? " 

'^ About ten miles." 

"How high?" 

" Seven or eight thousand feet/' 

16 Alaska Days with John Muir 

That was enough. I caught the 
D.D.s with guile. There were Stick- 
een Indians there catching salmon, 
and among them Chief Shakes, who 
our interpreter said was "The 
youngest but the headest Chief of 
all.'* Last night's palaver had whet- 
ted the appetites of both sides for 
more. On the part of the Indians, a 
talk with these " Great White Chiefs 
from Washington '' offered unlimited 
possibilities for material favor; and 
to the good divines the " simple faith 
and childlike docility '' of these chil- 
dren of the forest were a constant 
delight. And then how well their 
high-flown compliments and flowery 
metaphors would sound in article 
and speech to the wondering East! 
So I sent Stickeen Johnny, the in- 
terpreter, to call the natives to an- 
other hyou wawa (big talk) and, 
note-book in hand, the doctors " went 
gayly to the fray.'' I set the speeches 

The Mountain 17 

a-going, and then slipped out to join 
the impatient Muir. 

" Take off your coat/* he com- 
manded, " and here^s your supper." 

Pocketing two hardtacks apiece 
we were off, keeping in shelter of 
house and bush till out of sight of 
the council-house and the flower- 
picking ladies. Then we broke out. 
What a matchless climate! What 
sweet, lung-filling air! Sunshine 
that had no weakness in it — as if we 
were springing plants. Our sinews 
like steel springs, muscles like India 
rubber, feet soled with iron to grip 
the rocks. Ten miles? Eight thou- 
sand feet? Why, I felt equal to 
forty miles and the Matterhorn! 

" Eh, mon ! " said Muir, lapsing 
into the broad Scotch he was so fond 
of using when enjoying himself, 
"ye^U see the sicht o' yer life the 
day. Ye'll get that'll be o* mair use 
till ye than a' the gowd o* Cassiar/' 

18 Alaska Days with John Muh* 

From the first, it was a hard climb. 
Fallen timber at the mountain's foot 
covered with thick brush swallowed 
us up and plucked us back. Beyond, 
on the steeper slopes, grew dwarf 
evergreens, five or six feet high — the 
same fir that towers a hundred feet 
with a diameter of three or four on 
the river banks, but here stunted by 
icy mountain winds. The curious 
blasting of the branches on the side 
next to the mountain gave them the 
appearance of long-armed, hump- 
backed, hairy gnomes, bristling with 
anger, stretching forbidding arms 
downwards to bar our passage to 
their sacred heights. Sometimes an 
inviting vista through the branches 
would lure us in, when it would nar- 
row, and at its upper angle we would 
find a solid phalanx of these grumpy 
dwarfs. Then we had to attack 
boldly, scrambling over the obstinate, 
elastic arms and against the clusters 

The Mountain 19 

of stiff needles, till we gained the 
upper side and found another green 

Muir led, of course, picking with 
sure instinct the easiest way. Three 
hours of steady work brought us 
suddenly beyond the timber-line, and 
the real joy of the day began. No- 
where else have I see anything ap- 
proaching the luxuriance and variety 
of delicate blossoms shown by these 
high, mountain pastures of the 
North. " You scarce could see the 
grass for flowers." Everything that 
was marvelous in form, fair in color, 
or sweet in fragrance seemed to 
be represented there, from daisies 
and campanulas to Muir's favorite, 
the cassiope, with its exquisite little 
pink-white bells shaped like lilies-of- 
the-valley and its subtle perfume. 
Muir at once went wild when we 
reached this fairyland. From cluster 
to cluster of flowers he ran, falling 

20 Alaska Days with John Muir 

on his knees, babbling in unknown 
tongues, prattling a curious mixture 
of scientific lingo and baby talk, wor- 
shiping his little blue-and-pink god- 

"Ah! my blue-eyed darlin*, little 
did I think to see you here. How 
did you stray away from Shasta ? '* 

"Well, well! Who'd 'a' thought 
that you'd have left that niche in 
the Merced mountains to come 
here ! " 

"And who might you be, now, 
with your wonder look? Is it pos- 
sible that you can be (two Latin 
polysyllables)? You're lost, my dear; 
you belong in Tennessee." 

" Ah ! I thought I'd find you, my 
homely little sweetheart," and so on 

So absorbed was he in this ama- 
tory botany that he seemed to forget 
my existence. While I, as glad as 
he, tagged along, running up and 

The Mountain 21 

down with him, asking now and 
then a question, learning something 
of plant life, but far more of that 
spiritual insight into Nature's lore 
which is granted only to those who 
love and woo her in her great out- 
door palaces. But how I anathema- 
tized my short-sighted foolishness 
for having as a student at old Woos- 
ter shirked botany for the " more 
important" studies of language and 
metaphysics. For here was a man 
whose natural science had a thor- 
ough technical basis, while the super- 
structure was built of " lively stones,'' 
and was itself a living temple of 

With all his boyish enthusiasm, 
Muir was a most painstaking stu- 
dent; and any unsolved question lay 
upon his mind like a personal griev- 
ance until it was settled to his full 
understanding. One plant after an- 
other, with its sand-covered roots. 

22 Alaska Days with John Muir 

went into his pockets, his handker- 
chief and the " full " of his shirt, 
until he was bulbing and sprouting 
all over, and could carry no more. 
He was taking them to the boat to 
analyze and compare at leisure. 
Then he began to requisition my 
receptacles. I stood it while he 
stuffed my pockets, but rebelled 
when he tried to poke the prickly, 
scratchy things inside my shirt. I 
had not yet attained that sublime 
indifference to physical comfort, that 
Nirvana of passivity, that Muir had 

Hours had passed in this entranc- 
ing work and we were progressing 
upwards but slowly. We were on 
the southeastern slope of the moun- 
tain, and the sun was still staring at 
us from a cloudless sky. Suddenly 
we were in the shadow as we worked 
around a spur of rock. Muir looked 
up, startled. Then he jammed home 

The Mountain 28 

his last handful of plants, and hast- 
ened up to where I stood. 

" Man ! " he said, " I was forget- 
ting. We'll have to hurry now or 
we'll miss it, we'll miss it." 

"Miss what?" I asked. 

" The jewel of the day," he an- 
swered ; " the sight of the sunset 
from the top." 

Then Muir began to slide up that 
mountain. I had been with moun- 
tain climbers before, but never one 
like him. A deer-lope over the 
smoother slopes, a sure instinct for 
the easiest way into a rocky fortress, 
an instant and unerring attack, a ser- 
pent-glide up the steep; eye, hand 
and foot all connected dynamically; 
with no appearance of weight to his 
body — as though he had Stockton's 
negative gravity machine strapped 
on his back. 

Fifteen years of enthusiastic study 
among the Sierras had given him the 

24 Alaska Days with John Muir 

same pre-eminence over the ordinary 
climber as the Big Horn of the 
Rockies shows over the Cotswold. 
It was only by exerting myself to 
the limit of my strength that I was 
able to keep near him. His example 
was at the same time my inspiration 
and despair. I longed for him to 
stop and rest, but would not have 
suggested it for the world. I would 
at least be game, and furnish no hint 
as to how tired I was, no matter how 
chokingly my heart thumped. Muir*s 
spirit was in me, and my " chief end,'* 
just then, was to win that peak with 
him. The impending calamity of 
being beaten by the sun was not to 
be contemplated without horror. 
The loss of a fortune would be as 
nothing to that! 

We were now beyond the flower 
garden of the gods, in a land of 
rocks and cliffs, with patches of short 
grass, caribou moss and lichens be- 

§ I 

The Mountain 25 

tween. Along a narrowing arm of 
the mountain, a deep canyon flumed 
a rushing torrent of icy water from 
a small glacier on our right. Then 
came moraine matter, rounded peb- 
bles and boulders, and beyond them 
the glacier. Once a giant, it is noth- 
ing but a baby now, but the ice is 
still blue and clear, and the crevasses 
many and deep. And that day it had 
to be crossed, which was a ticklish 
task. A misstep or slip might land 
us at once fairly into the heart of the 
glacier, there to be preserved in cold 
storage for the wonderment of fu- 
ture generations. But glaciers were 
Muir's special pets, his intimate com- 
panions, with whom he held sweet 
communion. Their voices were plain 
language to his ears, their work, as 
God's landscape gardeners, of the wis- 
est and best that Nature could offer. 

No Swiss g^ide was ever wiser in 
the habits of glaciers than Muir, or 

26 Alaska Days with John Muir 

proved to be a better pilot across their 
deathly crevasses. Half a mile of 
careful walking and jumping and we 
were on the ground again, at the base 
of the great cliff of metamorphic 
slate that crowned the summit. 
Muir's aneroid barometer showed a 
height of about seven thousand 
feet, and the wall of rock towered 
threateningly above us, leaning out in 
places, a thousand feet or so above 
the glacier. But the earth-fires that 
had melted and heaved it, the ice 
mass that chiseled and shaped it, the 
wind and rain that corroded and 
crumbled it, had left plenty of bricks 
out of that battlement, had covered 
its face with knobs and horns, had 
ploughed ledges and cleaved fissures 
and fastened crags and pinnacles 
upon it, so that, while its surface was 
full of man-traps and blind ways, the 
human spider might still find some 
hold for his claws. 

The Mountain 27 

The shadows were dark upon us, 
but the lofty, icy peaks of the main 
range still lay bathed in the golden 
rays of the setting sun. There was 
no time to be lost. A quick glance 
to the right and left, and Muir, who 
had steered his course wisely across 
the glacier, attacked the cliff, simply 
saying, " We must climb cautiously 

Now came the most wonderful dis- 
play of his mountain-craft. Had I 
been alone at the feet of these crags 
I should have said, " It can't be 
done," and have turned back down 
the mountain. But Muir was my 
" control," as the Spiritists say, and 
I never thought of doing anything 
else but following him. He thought 
he could climb up there and that 
settled it. He would do what he 
thought he could. And such climb- 
ing! There was never an instant 
when both feet and hands were not in 

28 Alaska Days with John Muir 

play, and often elbows, knees, thighs, 
upper arms, and even chin must grip 
and hold. Clambering up a steep 
slope, crawling under an overhang- 
ing rock, spreading out like a flying 
squirrel and edging along an inch- 
wide projection while fingers clasped 
knobs above the head, bending about 
sharp angles, pulling up smooth rock- 
faces by sheer strength of arm and 
chinning over the edge, leaping fis- 
sures, sliding flat around a dangerous 
rock-breast, testing crumbly spurs 
before risking his weight, always 
going up, up, no hesitation, no pause 
— that was Muir! My task was the 
lighter one; he did the head-work, I 
had but to imitate. The thin frag- 
ment of projecting slate that stood 
the weight of his one hundred and 
fifty pounds would surely sustain 
my hundred and thirty. As far as 
possible I did as he did, took his 
hand-holds, and stepped in his steps. 

The Mountain 29 

But I was handicapped in a way 
that Muir was ignorant of, and I 
would not tell him for fear of his 
veto upon my climbing. My legs 
were all right — ^hard and sinewy; 
my body light and supple, my wind 
good, my nerves steady (heights did 
not make me dizzy) ; but my arms — 
there lay the trouble. Ten years be- 
fore I had been fond of breaking 
colts — till the colts broke me. On 
successive summers in West Vir- 
ginia, two colts had fallen with me 
and dislocated first my left shoulder, 
then my right. Since that both arms 
had been out of joint more than once. 
My left was especially weak. It 
would not sustain my weight, and I 
had to favor it constantly. Now 
and again, as I pulled myself up some 
difficult reach I could feel the head 
of the humerus move from its socket. 

Muir climbed so fast that his 
movements were almost like flying. 

80 Alaska Days with John Muir 

legs and arms moving with perfect 
precision and unfailing judgment. I 
must keep close behind him or I 
would fail to see his points of van- 
tage. But the pace was a killing one 
for me. As we neared the summit 
my strength began to fail, my breath 
to come in gasps, my muscles to 
twitch. The overwhelming fear of 
losing sight of my guide, of being 
left behind and failing to see that 
sunset, grew upon me, and I hurled 
myself blindly at every fresh ob- 
stacle, determined to keep up. At 
length we climbed upon a little shelf, 
a foot or two wide, that corkscrewed 
to the left. Here we paused a mo- 
ment to take breath and look around 
us. We had ascended the cliff some 
nine hundred and fifty feet from the 
glacier, and were within forty or 
fifty feet of the top. 

Among the much-prized gifts of 
this good world one of the very rich- 

The Mountain 31 

est was given to me in that hour. It 
is securely locked in the safe of my 
memory and nobody can rob me of it 
— an imperishable treasure. Stand- 
ing out on the rounded neck of the 
cliff and facing the southwest, we 
could see on three sides of us. The 
view was much the finest of all my 
experience. We seemed to stand on 
a high rostrum in the center of the 
greatest amphitheater in the world. 
The sky was cloudless, the level sun 
flooding all the landscape with 
golden light. From the base of the 
mountain on which we stood 
stretched the rolling upland. Strik- 
ing boldly across our front was the 
deep valley of the Stickeen, a line of 
foliage, light green cottonwoods and 
darker alders, sprinkled with black 
fir and spruce, through which the 
river gleamed with a silvery sheen, 
now spreading wide among its isl- 
ands, now foaming white through 

82 Alaska Days with John Muir 

narrow canyons. Beyond, among 
the undulating hills, was a marvel- 
ous array of lakes. There must 
have been thirty or forty of them, 
from the pond of an acre to the wide 
sheet two or three miles across. The 
strangely elongated and rounded hills 
had the appearance of giants in bed, 
wrapped in many-colored blankets, 
while the lakes were their deep, blue 
eyes, lashed with dark evergreens, 
gazing steadfastly heavenward. Look 
long at these recumbent forms and 
you will see the heaving of their 

The whole landscape was alert, 
expectant of glory. Around this 
great camp of prostrate Cyclops 
there stood an unbroken semicircle 
of mighty peaks in solemn grandeur, 
some hoary-headed, some with locks 
of brown, but all wearing white gla- 
cier collars. The taller peaks seemed 
almost sharp enough to be the hel- 

The Mountain 88 

mets and spears of watchful senti- 
nels. And the colors! Great 
stretches of crimson fireweed, acres 
and acres of them, smaller patches 
of dark blue lupins, and hills of 
shaded yellow, red, and brown, the 
many-shaded green of the woods, the 
amethyst and purple of the far hori- 
zon — who can tell it? We did not 
stand there more than two or three 
minutes, but the whole wonderful 
scene is deeply etched on the tablet 
of my memory, a photogravure never 
to be effaced. 



At eventide, upon a dreary sea, 

I watched a mountain rear its hoary head 

To look with steady gaze in the near heaven. 

The earth was cold and still. No sound was heard 

But the dream-voices of the sleeping sea. 

The mountain drew its gray cloud-mantle close. 

Like Roman senator, erect and old. 

Raising aloft an earnest brow and calm. 

With upward look intent of steadfast faith. 

The sky was dim; no glory-light shone forth 

To crown the mountain's faith; which faltered not, 

But, ever hopeful, waited patiently. 

At mom I looked again. Expectance sat 

Of immanent glory on the mountain's brow. 

And, in a moment, lo! the glory came! 

An angel's hand rolled back a crimson cloud. 

Deep, rose-red light of wondrous tone and power — 

A crown of matchless splendor — ^graced its head, 

Majestic, kingly, pure as Heaven, yet warm 

With earthward love. A motion, like a heart 

With rich blood beating, seemed to sway and pulse, 

With might of ecstasy, the granite peak. 

A poem grand it was of Love Divine — 

An anthem, sweet and strong, of praise to God — 

A victory-peal from barren fields of death. 

Its gaze was heavenward still, but earthward tioo— 

For Love seeks not her own, and joy is full, 

Only when freest given. The sun shone forth. 

And now the mountain doffed its ruby crown 

For one of diamonds. Still the light streamed down ; 

No longer chill and bleak, the morning glowed 

With warmth and light, and clouds of fiery hue 

Mantled the crystal glacier's chilly stream. 

And all the landscape throbbed with sudden joy. 



MUIR was the first to awake 
from his trance. Like Schil- 
ler's king in "The Diver/' 
" Nothing could slake his wild thirst 
of desire." 

" The sunset," he cried ; " we must 
have the whole horizon." 

Then he started running along the 
ledge like a mountain goat, working 
to get around the vertical cliff above 
us to find an ascent on the other 
side. He was soon out of sight, al- 
though I followed as fast as I could. 
I heard him shout something, but 
could not make out his words. I 
know now he was warning me 
of a dangerous place. Then I came 
to a sharp-cut fissure which lay 


38 Alaska Days with John Muir 

across my path — a gash in the rock, 
as if one of the Cyclops had struck 
it with his axe. It sloped very 
steeply for some twelve feet below, 
opening on the face of the precipice 
above the glacier, and was filled to 
within about four feet of the surface 
with flat, slaty gravel. It was only 
four or five feet across, and I could 
easily have leaped it had I not been 
so tired. But a rock the size of my 
head projected from the slippery 
stream of gravel. In my haste to 
overtake Muir I did not stop to make 
sure this stone was part of the cliflf, 
but stepped with springing force 
upon it to cross the fissure. In- 
stantly the stone melted away be- 
neath my feet, and I shot with it 
down towards the precipice. With 
my peril sharp upon me I cried out 
as I whirled on my face, and struck 
out both hands to grasp the rock on 
either side. 

The Rescue 89 

Falling forward hard, my hands 
struck the walls of the chasm, my 
arms were twisted behind me, and 
instantly both shoulders were dislo- 
cated. With my paralyzed arms 
flopping helplessly above my head, I 
slid swiftly down the narrow chasm. 
Instinctively I flattened down on the 
sliding gravel, digging my chin and 
toes into it to check my descent; 
but not until my feet hung out over 
the edge of the cliff did I feel that I 
had stopped. Even then I dared not 
breathe or stir, so precarious was 
my hold on that treacherous shale. 
Every moment I seemed to be slip- 
ping inch by inch to the point when 
all would give way and I would go 
whirling down to the glacier. 

After the first wild moment of 
panic when I felt myself falling, I 
do not remember any sense of fear. 
But I know what it is to have a thou- 
sand thoughts flash through the 

40 Alaska Days with John Muir 

brain in a single instant — an an- 
guished thought of my young wife 
at Wrangell, with her immanent 
motherhood ; an indignant thought of 
the insurance companies that refused 
me policies on my life; a thought of 
wonder as to what would become of 
my poor flocks of Indians among the 
islands; recollections of events far 
and near in time, important and 
trivial; but each thought printed 
upon my memory by the instanta- 
neous photography of deadly peril. I 
had no hope of escape at all. The 
gravel was rattling past me and pil- 
ing up against my head. The jar of 
a little rock, and all would be over. 
The situation was too desperate for 
actual fear. Dull wonder as to how 
long I would be in the air, and the 
hope that death would be instant — 
that was all. Then came the wish 
that Muir would come before I fell, 
and take a message to my wife. 

The Rescue 41 

Suddenly I heard his voice right 
above me. " My God ! " he cried. 
Then he added, " Grab that rock, 
man, just by your right hand.'' 

I gurgled from my throat, not 
daring to inflate my lungs, " My 
arms are out." 

There was a pause. Then his 
voice rang again, cheery, confident, 
unexcited, " Hold fast ; Fm going to 
get you out of this. I can't get to 
you on this side; the rock is sheer. 
I'll have to leave you now and cross 
the rift high up and come down to 
you on the other side by which we 
came. Keep cool." 

Then I heard him going away, 
whistling " The Blue Bells of Scot- 
land," singing snatches of Scotch 
songs, calling to me, his voice now 
receding, as the rocks intervened, 
then sounding louder as he came out 
on the face of the cliff. But in me 
hope surged at full tide. I enter- 

42 Alaska Days with John Muir 

tained no more thoughts of last mes- 
sages. I did not see how he could 
possibly do it, but he was John Muir, 
and I had seen his wonderful rock- 
work. So I determined not to fall 
and made myself as flat and heavy 
as possible, not daring to twitch a 
muscle or wink an eyelid, for I still 
felt myself slipping, slipping down 
the greasy slate. And now a new 
peril threatened. A chill ran through 
me of cold and nervousness, and I 
slid an inch. I suppressed the grow- 
ing shivers with all my will. I 
would keep perfectly quiet till Muir 
came back. The sickening pain in 
my shoulders increased till it was 
torture, and I could not ease it. 

It seemed like hours, but it was 
really only about ten minutes before 
he got back to me. By that time I 
hung so far over the edge of the 
precipice that it seemed impossible 
that I could last another second. 

The Rescue 48 

N^ow I heard Muir's voice, low and 
steady, close to me, and it seemed a 
little below. 

" Hold steady," he said. " Fll have 
to swing you out over the cliff." 

Then I felt a careful hand on my 
back, fumbling with the waistband of 
my pants, my vest and shirt, gather- 
ing all in a firm grip. I could see 
only with one eye and that looked 
upon but a foot or two of gravel on 
the other side. 

" Now ! " he said, and I slid out 
of the cleft with a rattling shower 
of stones and gravel. My head 
swung down, my impotent arms 
dangling, and I stared straight at 
the glacier, a thousand feet below. 
Then my feet came against the cliff. 

"Work downwards with your 

I obeyed. He drew me close to 
him by crooking his arm and as my 
head came up past his level he caught 

44 Alaska Days with John Muir 

me by my collar with his teeth ! My 
feet struck the little two-inch shelf 
on which he was standing, and I 
could see Muir, flattened against the 
face of the rock and facing it, his 
right hand stretched up and clasping 
a little spur, his left holding me with 
an iron grip, his head bent sideways, 
as my weight drew it. I felt as alert 
and cool as he. 

" IVe got to let go of you," he 
hissed through his clenched teeth. 
" I need both hands here. Climb up- 
ward with your feet." 

How he did it, I know not. The 
miracle grows as I ponder it. The 
wall was almost perpendicular and 
smooth. My weight on his jaws 
dragged him outwards. And yet, 
holding me by his teeth as a panther 
her cub and clinging like a squirrel 
to a tree, he climbed with me straight 
up ten or twelve feet, with only the 
help of my iron-shod feet scrambling 

The Rescue 45 

on the rock. It was utterly impossi- 
ble, yet he did it ! 

When he landed me on the little 
shelf along which we had come, my 
nerve gave way and I trembled all 
over. I sank down exhausted, Muir 
only less tired, but supporting me. 

The sun had set; the air was icy 
cold and we had no coats. We would 
soon chill through. Muir's task of 
rescue had only begun and no time 
was to be lost. In a minute he was 
up again, examining my shoulders. 
The right one had an upward dislo- 
cation, the ball of the humerus rest- 
ing on the process of the scapula, 
the rim of the cup. I told him how, 
and he soon snapped the bone into its 
socket. But the left was a harder 
proposition. The luxation was 
downward and forward, and the 
strong, nervous reaction of the mus- 
cles had pulled the head of the 
bone deep into my armpit. There 

46 Alaska Days with John Muir 

was no room to work on that narrow 
ledge. All that could be done was 
to make a rude sling with one of my 
suspenders and our handkerchiefs, so 
as to both support the elbow and 
keep the arm from swinging. 

Then came the task to get down 
that terrible wall to the glacier, by 
the only practicable way down the 
mountain that Muir, after a careful 
search, could find. Again I am at 
loss to know how he accomplished 
it. For an unencumbered man to 
descend it in the deepening dusk was 
a most difficult task ; but to get a tot- 
tery, nerve-shaken, pain-wracked 
cripple down was a feat of positive 
wonder. My right arm, though in 
place, was almost helpless. I could 
only move my forearm; the muscles 
of the upper part simply refusing to 
obey my will. Muir would let him- 
self down to a lower shelf, brace him- 
self, and I would get my right hand 

The Rescue 47 

against him, crawl my fingers over 
his shoulder until the arm hung in 
front of him, and falling against him, 
would be eased down to his standing 
ground. Sometimes he would pack 
me a short distance on his back. 
Again, taking me by the wrist, he 
would swing me down to a lower 
shelf, before descending himself. My 
right shoulder came out three times 
that night, and had to be reset. 

It was dark when we reached the 
base; there was no moon and it was 
very cold. The glacier provided an 
operating table, and I lay on the ice 
for an hour while Muir, having slit 
the sleeve of my shirt to the collar, 
tugged and twisted at my left arm 
in a vain attempt to set it. But the 
ball was too deep in its false socket, 
and all his pulling only bruised and 
made it swell. So he had to do up 
the arm again, and tie it tight to my 
body. It must have been near mid- 

48 Alaska Days with John Muir 

night when we left the foot of the 
cliff and started down the mountain. 
We had ten hard miles to go, and 
no supper, for the hardtack had dis- 
appeared ere we were half-way up 
the mountain. Muir dared not take 
me across the glacier in the dark; I 
was too weak to jump the crevasses. 
So we skirted it and came, after a 
mile, to the head of a great slide of 
gravel, the fine moraine matter of 
the receding glacier. Muir sat down 
on the gravel ; I sat against him with 
my feet on either side and my arm 
over his shoulder. Then he began 
to hitch and kick, and presently we 
were sliding at great speed in a cloud 
of dust. A full half-mile we flew, 
and were almost buried when we 
reached the bottom of the slide. It 
was the easiest part of our trip. 

Now we found ourselves in the 
canyon, down which tumbled the gla- 
cial stream, and far beneath the ridge 

The Rescue 49 

along which we had ascended. The 
sides of the canyon were sheer cliffs. 

" We'll try it/' said Muir. '' Some- 
times these canyons are passable." 

But the way grew rougher as we 
descended. The rapids became falls 
and we often had to retrace our steps 
to find a way around them. After 
we reached the timber-line, some 
four miles from the summit, the go- 
ing was still harder, for we had a 
thicket of alders and willows to fight. 
Here Muir offered to make a fire and 
leave me while he went forward for 
assistance, but I refused. " No," I 
said, " Fm going to make it to the 

All that night this man of steel 
and lightning worked, never resting 
a minute, doing the work of three 
men, helping me along the slopes, 
easing me down the rocks, pulling 
me up cliffs, dashing water on me 
when I grew faint with the pain; 

50 Alaska Days with John Muir 

and always cheery, full of talk and 
anecdote, cracking jokes with me, 
infusing me with his own indomi- 
table spirit. He was eyes, hands, 
feet, and heart to me — my care- 
taker, in whom I trusted absolutely. 
My eyes brim with tears even now 
when I think of his utter self-aban- 
don as he ministered to my infirmi- 

About four o'clock in the morning 
we came to a fall that we could not 
compass, sheer a hundred feet or 
more. So we had to attack the steep 
walls of the canyon. After a hard 
struggle we were on the mountain 
ridges again, traversing the flower 
pastures, creeping through openings 
in the brush, scrambling over the 
dwarf fir, then down through the 
fallen timber. It was half-past seven 
o'clock when we descended the last 
slope and found the path to Glenora. 
Here we met a straggling party 

The Rescue 61 

of whites and Indians just start- 
ing out to search the mountain for 

As I was coming wearily up the 
teetering gang-plank, feeling as if I 
couldn't keep up another minute, Dr. 
Kendall stepped upon its end, barring 
my passage, bent his bushy white 
brows upon me from his six feet of 
height, and began to scold: 

" See here, young man ; give an ac- 
count of yourself. Do you know 
you've kept us waiting *' 

Just then Captain Lane jumped 
forward to help me, digging the old 
Doctor of Divinity with his elbow in 
the stomach and nearly knocking 
him off the boat. 

^'Oh, hell!" he roared. "Can't 
you see the man's hurt?" 

Mrs. Kendall was a very tall, thin, 
severe-looking old lady, with face 
lined with grief by the loss of her 
children. She never smiled. She 

52 Alaska Days with John Muir 

had not gone to bed at all that night, 
but walked the deck and would not 
let her husband or the others sleep. 
Soon after daylight she began to lash 
the men with the whip of her tongue 
for their " cowardice and inhuman- 
ity " in not starting at once to search 
for me. 

" Mr. Young is undoubtedly lying 
mangled at the foot of a cliff, or 
else one of those terrible bears has 
wounded him; and you are lolling 
around here instead of starting to 
his rescue. For shame ! '' 

When they objected that they did 
not know where we had gone, she 
snapped : " Go everywhere until you 
find him.'' 

Her fierce energy started the men 
we met. When I came on board she 
at once took charge and issued her 
orders, which everybody jumped to 
obey. She had blankets spread on 
the floor of the cabin and laid me on 

The Rescue 58 

them. She obtained some whisky 
from the captain, some water, por- 
ridge and coffee from the steward. 
She was sitting on the floor with my 
head in her lap, feeding me coffee 
with a spoon, when Dr. Kendall came 
in and began on me again: 

" Suppose you had fallen down 
that precipice, what would your poor 
wife have done? What would have 
become of your Indians and your 
new church ? " 

Then Mrs. Kendall turned and 
thrust her spoon like a sword at 
him. " Henry Kendall," she blazed, 
" shut right up and leave this room. 
Have you no sense? Go instantly, I 
say ! " And the good Doctor went. 

My recollections of that day are 
not very clear. The shoulder was 
in a bad condition — swollen, bruised, 
very painful. I had to be strength- 
ened with food and rest, and Muir 
called from his sleep of exhaustion. 

S4 Alaska Days with John Muir 

so that with four other men he 
could pull and twist that poor arm 
of mine for an hour. They got it 
into its socket, but scarcely had Muir 
got to sleep again before the strong, 
nervous twitching of the shoulder 
dislocated it a second time and seem- 
ingly placed it in a worse condition 
than before. Captain Lane was now 
summoned, and with Muir to direct, 
they worked for two or three hours. 
Whisky was poured down my throat 
to relax my stubborn, pain-convulsed 
muscles. Then they went at it with 
two men pulling at the towel knotted 
about my wrist, two others pulling 
against them, foot braced to foot, 
Muir manipulating my shoulder with 
his sinewy hands, and the stocky 
Captain, strong and compact as a 
bear, with his heel against the yarn 
ball in my armpit, takes me by the 
elbow and says, " FU set it or pull 
the arm off!" 



The Rescue 65 

Well, he almost does the latter. I 
am conscious of a frightful strain, a 
spasm of anguish in my side as his 
heel slips from the ball and kicks in two 
of my ribs, a snap as the head of the 
bone slips into the cup — then kindly 

I was awakened about five o'clock 
in the afternoon by the return of the 
whole party from an excursion to 
the Great Glacier at the Boundary 
Line. Muir, fresh and enthusiastic 
as ever, had been the pilot across 
the moraine and upon the great ice 
mountain; and I, wrapped like a 
mummy in linen strips, was able to 
join in his laughter as he told of the 
big D.D.'s heroics, when, in the mid- 
dle of an acre of alder brush, he 
asked indignantly, in response to the 
hurry-up calls: "Do you think Fm 
going to leave my wife in this for- 

One overpowering regret — one 

66 Alaska Days with John Muir 

only — ^abides in my heart as I think 
back upon that golden day with 
John Muir. He could, and did, go 
back to Glenora on the return trip 
of the Cassiar, ascend the mountain 
again, see the sunset from its 
top, make charming sketches, stay 
all night and see the sunrise, filling 
his cup of joy so full that he could 
pour out entrancing descriptions for 
days. While I — ^well, with entreating 
arms about one's neck and pleading, 
tearful eyes looking into one's own, 
what could one do but promise to 
climb no more? But my lifelong 
lamentation over a treasure forever 
lost, is this : " I never saw the sunset 
from that peak/' 



You are a child, old Friend — a child I 
As light of heart, as free, as wild ; 
As credulous of fairy tale; 
As simple in your faith, as frail 
In reason; jealous, petulant; 
As crude in manner ; ignorant. 
Yet wise in love; as rough, as mild — 
You are a dhildt 

You are a man, old Friend — sl man! 
Ah, sure in richer tide ne'er ran 
The blood of earth's nobility. 
Than through your veins; intrepid, free; 
In counsel, prudent ; proud and tall ; 
Of passions full, yet ruling all; 
No stauncher friend since time began; 
You are a MAN ! 



THE summer and fall of 1879 
Muir always referred to as the 
most interesting period of his 
adventurous life. From about the 
tenth of July to the twentieth of 
November he was in southeastern 
Alaska. Very little of this time did 
he spend indoors. Until steamboat 
navigation of the Stickeen River was 
closed by the forming ice, he made 
frequent trips to the Great Glacier — 
thirty miles up the river, to the Hot 
Springs, the Mud Glacier and the in- 
terior lakes, ranges, forests and 
flower pastures. Always upon his re- 
turn (for my house was his home the 
most of that time) he would be full 
to intoxication of what he had seen, 


60 Alaska Days with John Muir 

and dinners would grow cold and 
lamps burn out while he held us en- 
tranced with his impassioned stories. 
Although his books are all master- 
pieces of lucid and glowing English, 
Muir was one of those rare souls who 
talk better than they write; and he 
made the trees, the animals, and es- 
pecially the glaciers, live before us. 
Somehow a glacier never seemed 
cold when John Muir was talking 
about it. 

On September nineteenth a little 
stranger whose expected advent was 
keeping me at home arrived in the 
person of our first-born daughter. 
For two or three weeks preceding and 
following this event Muir was busy 
writing his summer notes and finish- 
ing his pencil sketches, and also 
studying the flora of the islands. It 
was a season of constant rains when 
the saanah, the southeast rain-wind, 
blew a gale. But these stormy days 

The Voyage 61 

and nights, which kept ordinary peo- 
ple indoors, always lured him out into 
the woods or up the mountains. 

One wild night, dark as Erebus, the 
rain dashing in sheets and the wind 
blowing a hurricane, Muir came from 
his room into ours about ten o'clock 
with his long, gray overcoat and his 
Scotch cap on. 

" Where now ? " I asked. 

" Oh, to the top of the mountain,'* 
he replied. " It is a rare chance to 
study this fine storm.'* 

My expostulations were in vain. 
He rejected with scorn the proffered 
lantern : " It would spoil the effect." 
I retired at my usual time, for I had 
long since learned not to worry about 
Muir. At two o'clock in the morning 
there came a hammering at the front 
door. I opened it and there stood a 
group of our Indians, rain-soaked and 
trembling — Chief Tow-a-att, Moses, 
Aaron, Matthew, Thomas. 

62 Alaska Days with John Muir 

"Why, men," I cried, "what's 
wrong ? What brings you here ? " 

" We want you play (pray)," an- 
swered Matthew. 

I brought them into the house, and, 
putting on my clothes and lighting 
the lamp, I set about to find out the 
trouble. It was not easy. They were 
greatly excited and frightened. 

" We scare. All Stickeen scare ; 
plenty cly. We want you play God; 
plenty play." 

By dint of much questioning I gath- 
ered at last that the whole tribe were 
frightened by a mysterious light wav- 
ing and flickering from the top of 
the little mountain that overlooked 
Wrangell; and they wished me to 
pray to the white man's God and avert 
dire calamity. 

" Some miner has camped there," I 

An eager chorus protested; it was 
not like the light of a camp-fire in 

The Voyage 63 

the least; it waved in the air like the 
wings of a spirit. Besides, there was 
no gold on the top of a hill like that ; 
and no human being would be so fool- 
ish as to camp up there on such a 
night, when there were plenty of com- 
fortable houses at the foot of the 
hill. It was a spirit, a malignant 

Suddenly the true explanation 
flashed into my brain, and I shocked 
my Indians by bursting into a roar of 
laughter. In imagination I could see 
him so plainly — ^John Muir, wet but 
happy, feeding his fire with spruce 
sticks, studying and enjoying the 
storm! But I explained to my na- 
tives, who ever afterwards eyed Muir 
askance, as a mysterious being whose 
ways and motives were beyond all 

"Why does this strange man go 
into the wet woods and up the moun- 
tains on stormy nights ? " they asked. 

64 Alaska Days with John Muir 

" Why does he wander alone on bar- 
ren peaks or on dangerous ice-moun- 
tains ? There is no gold up there and 
he never takes a gun with him or 
a pick. Ida mamook — ^what make? 
Why— why?" 

The first week in October saw the 
culmination of plans long and eagerly 
discussed. Almost the whole of the 
Alexandrian Archipelago, that great 
group of eleven hundred wooded 
islands that forms the southeastern 
cup-handle of Alaska, was at that time 
a terra incognita. The only seaman's 
chart of the region in existence was 
that made by the great English navi- 
gator, Vancouver, in 1807. It was a 
wonderful chart, considering what an 
absurd little sailing vessel he had in 
which to explore those intricate wa- 
ters with their treacherous winds and 

But Vancouver's chart was hastily 
made, after all, in a land of fog and 

The Voyage 65 

rain and snow. He had not the mod- 
ern surveyor's instruments, boats or 
other helps. And, besides, this re- 
gion was changing more rapidly 
than, perhaps, any other part of the 
globe. Volcanic islands were being 
born out of the depths of the ocean; 
landslides were filling up channels 
between the islands; tides and riv- 
ers were opening new passages and 
closing old ones; and, more than all, 
those mightiest tools of the great 
Engineer, the glaciers, were furrow- 
ing valleys, dumping millions of tons 
of silt into the sea, forming islands, 
promontories and isthmuses, and by 
their recession letting the sea into 
deep and long fiords, forming great 
bays, inlets and passages, many of 
which did not exist in Vancouver's 
time. In certain localities the living 
glacier stream was breaking off 
bergs so fast that the resultant bays 
were lengthening a mile or more 

66 Alaska Days with John Muir 

each year. Where Vancouver saw 
only a great crystal wall across the 
sea, we were to paddle for days up 
a long and sinuous fiord; and where 
he saw one glacier, we were to find 
a dozen. 

My mission in the proposed voy- 
age of discovery was to locate and 
visit the tribes and villages of Thlin- 
gets to the north and west of Wran- 
gell, to take their census, confer with 
their chiefs and report upon their 
condition, with a view to establish- 
ing schools and churches among 
them. The most of these tribes had 
never had a visit from a missionary, 
and I felt the eager zeal of an Eliot 
or a Martin at the prospect of tell- 
ing them for the first time the Good 
News. Muir's mission was to find 
and study the forests, mountains and 
glaciers. I also was eager to see 
these and learn about them, and 
Muir was glad to study the natives 

The Voyage 67 

with me — so our plans fitted into 
each other well. 

" We are going to write some his- 
tory, my boy/' Muir would say to 
me. "Think of the honor! We 
have been chosen to put some inter- 
esting people and some of Nature's 
grandest scenes on the page of hu- 
man record and on the map. Hurry! 
We are daily losing the most impor- 
tant news of all the world." 

In many respects we were most 
congenial companions. We both 
loved the same poets and could re- 
peat, verse about, many poems of 
Tennyson, Keats, Shelley and Burns. 
He took with him a volume of 
Thoreau, and I one of Emerson, and 
we enjoyed them together. I had 
my printed Bible with me, and he 
had his in his head — the result of a 
Scotch father's discipline. Our stud- 
ies supplemented each other and our 
tastes were similar. We had both 

68 Alaska Days witli John Muir 

lived clean lives and our conversa- 
tion together was sweet and high, 
while we both had a sense of humor 
and a large fund of stories. 

But Muir's knowledge of Nature 
and his insight into her plans and 
methods were so far beyond mine 
that, while I was organizer and com- 
mander of the expedition, he was 
my teacher and guide into the inner 
recesses and meanings of the islands, 
bays and mountains we explored to- 

Our ship for this voyage of dis- 
covery, while not so large as Van- 
couver's, was much more shapely 
and manageable — a kladushu etlan 
(six fathom) red-cedar canoe. It be- 
longed to our captain, old Chief 
Tow-a-att, a chief who had lately 
embraced Christianity with his whole 
heart — one of the simplest, most 
faithful, dignified and brave souls I 
ever knew. He fully expected to 

The Voyage 69 

meet a martyr's death among his 
heathen enemies of the northern 
islands; yet he did not shrink from 
the voyage on that account. 

His crew numbered three. First 
in importance was Kadishan, also a 
chief of the Stickeens, chosen be- 
cause of his powers of oratory, his 
kinship with Chief Shathitch of the 
Chilcat tribe, and his friendly rela- 
tions with other chiefs. He was a 
born courtier, learned in Indian lore, 
songs and customs, and able to in- 
struct me in the proper Thlinget 
etiquette to suit all occasions. The 
other two were sturdy young men — 
Stickeen John, our interpreter, and 
Sitka Charley. They were to act 
as cooks, camp-makers, oarsmen, 
hunters and general utility men. 

We stowed our baggage, which 
was not burdensome, in one end of 
the canoe, taking a simple store of 
provisions — flour, beans, bacon, su- 

70 Alaska Days witli John Muir 

gar, salt and a little dried fruit. We 
were to depend upon our guns, fish- 
hooks, spears and clamsticks for 
other diet. As a preliminary to our 
palaver with the natives we followed 
the old Hudson Bay custom, then 
firmly established in the North. We 
took materials for a potlatch, — leaf- 
tobacco, rice and sugar. Our Indian 
crew laid in their own stock of pro- 
visions, chiefly dried salmon and seal- 
grease, while our table was to be 
separate, set out with the white 
man's viands. 

We did not get off without trou- 
ble. Kadishan's mother, who looked 
but little older than himself, strongly 
objected to my taking her son on so 
perilous a voyage and so late in the 
fall, and when her scoldings and en- 
treaties did not avail she said : " If 
anything happens to my son, I will 
take your baby as mine in payment." 

One sunny October day we set our 

The Voyage 71 

prow to the unknown northwest. 
Our hearts beat high with anticipa- 
tion. Every passage between the 
islands was a corridor leading into 
a new and more enchaating room of 
Nature's great gallery. The lapping 
waves whispered enticing secrets, 
while the seabirds screaming over- 
head and the eagles shrilling from 
the sky promised wonderful adven- 

The voyage naturally divides it- 
self into the human interest and the 
study of nature; yet the two con- 
stantly blended throughout the 
whole voyage. I can only select a 
few instances from that trip of six 
weeks whose every hour was new 
and strange. 

Our captain, taciturn and self- 
reliant, commanded Muir's admira- 
tion from the first. His paddle was 
sure in the stern, his knowledge of 
the wind and tide unfailing. When- 

72 Alaska Days with John Muir 


ever we landed the crew would be- 
gin to dispute concerning the best 
place to make camp. But old Tow-a- 
att, with the mast in his hand, would 
march straight as an arrow to the 
likeliest spot of all, stick down his 
mast as a tent-pole and begin to set 
up the tent, the others invariably ac- 
quiescing in his decision as the best 
possible choice. 

At our first meal Muir's sense of 
humor cost us one-third of a roll 
of butter. We invited our captain 
to take dinner with us. I got out 
the bread and other viands, and set 
the two-pound roll of butter beside 
the bread and placed both by Tow-a- 
att. He glanced at the roll of but- 
ter and at the three who were to 
eat, measured with his eye one-third 
of the roll, cut it off with his hunt- 
ing knife and began to cut it into 
squares and eat it with great gusto. 
I was about to interfere and show 

The Voyage 78 

him the use we made of butter, but 
Muir stopped me with a wink. The 
old chief calmly devoured his third 
of the roll, and rubbing his stomach 
with great satisfaction pronounced it 
^^ hyas klosh (very good) glease." 

Of necessity we had chosen the 
rainiest season of the year in that 
dampest climate of North America, 
where there are two hundred and 
twenty-five rainy days out of the 
three hundred and sixty-five. Dur- 
ing our voyage it did not rain every 
day, but the periods of sunshine 
were so rare as to make us hail them 
with joyous acclamation. 

We steered our course due west- 
ward for forty miles, then through 
a sinuous, island-studded passage 
called Rocky Strait, stopping one 
day to lay in a supply of venison 
before sailing on to the village 
of the Kake Indians. My habit 
throughout the voyage, when com- 

74 Alaska Days with John Muir 

ing to a native town, was to find 
where the head chief lived, feed him 
with rice and regale him with to- 
bacco, and then induce him to call 
all his chiefs and head men together 
for a council. When they were all 
assembled I would give small pres- 
ents of tobacco to each, and then 
open the floodgate of talk, proclaim- 
ing my mission and telling them in 
simplest terms the Great New Story. 
Muir would generally follow me, un- 
folding in turn some of the won- 
ders of God's handiwork and the 
beauty of clean, pure living; and then 
in turn, beginning with the head 
chief, each Indian would make his 
speech. We were received with joy 
everywhere, and if there was suspi- 
cion at first old Tow-a-att's tearful 
pleadings and Kadishan's oratory 
speedily brought about peace and 
These palavers often lasted a 

The Voyage 75 

whole day and far into the night, 
and usually ended with our being 
feasted in turn by the chief in whose 
house we had held the council. I 
took the census of each village, get- 
ting the heads of the families to 
count their relatives with the aid of 
beans, — the large brown beans rep- 
resenting men, the large white ones, 
women, and the small Boston beans, 
children. In this manner the first 
census of southeastern Alaska was 

Before starting on the voyage, we 
heard that there was a Harvard 
graduate, bearing an honored New 
England name, living among the 
Kake Indians on Kouyou Island. On 
arriving at the chief town of that 
tribe we inquired for the white man 
and were told that he was camping 
with the family of a sub-chief at 
the mouth of a salmon stream. We 
set off to find him. As we neared 

76 Alaska Days with John Muir 

the shore we saw a circular group 
of natives around a fire on the beach, 
sitting on their heels in the stoical 
Indian way. We landed and came 
up to them. Not one of them 
deigned to rise or show any excite- 
ment at our coming. The eight or 
nine men who formed the group 
were all dressed in colored four- 
dollar blankets, with the exception 
of one, who had on a ragged frag- 
ment of a filthy, two-dollar, Hudson 
Bay blanket. The back of this man 
was towards us, and after speaking 
to the chief, Muir and I crossed to 
the other side of the fire, and saw 
his face. It was the white man, and 
the ragged blanket was all the cloth- 
ing he had upon him! An effort to 
open conversation with him proved 
futile. He answered only with 
grunts and mumbled monosyllables. 
Thus the most filthy, degraded, 
hopelessly lost savage that we found 

The Voyage 77 

in this whole voyage was a college 
graduate of great New England 
stock ! 

" Lift a stone to mountain height 
and let it fall," said Muir, "and it 
will sink the deeper into the mud." 

At Angoon, one of the towns of 
the Hootz-noo triUe, occurred an in- 
cident of another type. We found 
this village hilariously drunk. There 
was a very stringent prohibition law 
over Alaska at that time, which ab- 
solutely forbade the importation of 
any spirituous liquors into the Ter- 
ritory. But the law was deficient 
in one vital respect — it did not pro- 
hibit the importation of molasses; 
and a soldier during the military oc- 
cupancy of the Territory had in- 
structed the natives in the art of 
making rum. The method was sim- 
ple. A five-gallon oil can was taken 
and partly filled with molasses as 
a base; into that alcohol was placed 

78 Alaska Days with John Muir 

(if it were obtainable), dried apples, 
berries, potatoes, flour, anything that 
would rot and ferment; then, to give 
it the proper tang, ginger, cayenne 
pepper and mustard were added. 
This mixture was then set in a warm 
place to ferment. Another oil can 
was cut up into long strips, the 
solder melted out and used to make 
a pipe, with two or three turns 
through cool water, — forming the 
worm, and the still. Talk about 
your forty-rod whiskey — I have seen 
this " hooch," as it was called be- 
cause these same Hootz-noo natives 
first made it, kill at more than forty 
rods, for it generally made the na- 
tives fighting drunk. 

Through the large company of 
screaming, dancing and singing na- 
tives we made our way to the chiefs 
house. By some miracle this majes- 
tic-looking savage was sober. Per- 
haps he felt it incumbent upon him 

The Voyage 79 

as host not to partake himself of 
the luxuries with which he regaled 
his guests. He took us hospitably 
into his great community house of 
split cedar planks with carved totem 
poles for corner posts, and called 
his young men to take care of our 
canoe and to bring wood for a fire 
that he might feast us. The wife of 
this chief was one of the finest look- 
ing Indian women I have ever met, — 
tall, straight, lithe and dignified. 
But, crawling about on the floor on 
all fours, was the most piteous tra- 
vesty of the human form I have 
ever seen. It was an idiot boy, six- 
teen years of age. He had neither 
the comeliness of a beast nor the 
intellect of a man. His name was 
HootZ'too (Bear Heart), and indeed 
all his motions were those of a bear 
rather than . of a human being. 
Crossing the floor with the swing- 
ing gait of a bear, he would crouch 

80 Alaska Days with John Muir 

back on his haunches and resume his 
constant occupation of sucking his 
wrist, into which he had thus formed 
a livid hole. When disturbed at this 
horrid task he would strike with the 
claw-like fingers of the other hand, 
snarling and grunting. Yet the 
beautiful chieftainess was his mother, 
and she loved him. For sixteen years 
she had cared for this monster, feed- 
ing him with her choicest food, put- 
ting him to sleep always in her arms, 
taking him with her and guarding 
him day and night. When, a short 
time before our visit, the medicine 
men, accusing him of causing the ill- 
ness of some of the head men of the 
village, proclaimed him a witch, and 
the whole tribe came to take and 
torture him to death, she fought 
them like a lioness, not counting her 
own life dear unto her, and saved her 

When I said to her thoughtlessly, 

The Voyage 81 

" Oh, would you not be relieved at 
the death of this poor idiot boy?" 
she saw in my words a threat, and I 
shall never forget the pathetic, 
hunted look with which she said: 

" Oh, no, it must not be ; he shall 
not die. Is he not my son, uh-yeet- 
kutsku (my dear little son)?" 

If our voyage had yielded me noth- 
ing but this wonderful instance of 
mother-love, I should have counted 
myself richly repaid. 

One more human story before I 
come to Muir's part. It was during 
the latter half of the voyage, and 
after our discovery of Glacier Bay. 
The climax of the trip, so far as the 
missionary interests were concerned, 
was our visit to the Chilcat and Chil- 
coot natives on Lynn Canal, the 
most northern tribes of the Alexan- 
drian Archipelago. Here reigned 
the proudest and worst old savage 
of Alaska, Chief Shathitch. His 

82 Alaska Days with John Mnir 

wealth was very great in Indian 
treasures, and he was reputed to have 
cached away in different places sev- 
eral houses full of blankets, guns, 
boxes of beads, ancient carved pipes, 
spears, knives and other valued heir- 
looms. He was said to have stored 
away over one hundred of the ele- 
gant Chilcat blankets woven by hand 
from the hair of the mountain goat. 
His tribe was rich and unscrupulous. 
Its members were the middle-men 
between the whites and the Indians 
of the Interior. They did not allow 
these Indians to come to the coast, 
but took over the mountains articles 
purchased from the whites — guns, 
ammunition, blankets, knives and so 
forth — and bartered them for furs. 
It was said that they claimed to 
be the manufacturers of these wares 
and so charged for them what prices 
they pleased. They had these In- 
dians of the Interior in a bondage of 



The Voyage 88 

fear, and would not allow them to 
trade directly with the white men. 
Thus they carried out literally the 
story told of Hudson Bay traffic, — 
piling beaver skins to the height of 
a ten-dollar Hudson Bay musket as 
the price of the musket. They were 
the most quarrelsome and warlike of 
the tribes of Alaska, and their vil- 
lages were full of slaves procured 
by forays upon the coasts of Van- 
couver Island, Puget Sound, and as 
far south as the mouth of the Colum- 
bia River. I was eager to visit these 
large and untaught tribes, and es- 
tablish a mission among them. 

About the first of November we 
came in sight of the long, low-built 
village of Yin-des-tuk-ki. As we 
paddled up the winding channel of 
the Chilcat River we saw great ex- 
citement in the town. We had 
hoisted the American flag, as was 
our custom, and had put on our best 

84 Alaska Days with John Muir 

apparel for the occasion. When we 
got within long musket-shot of the 
village we saw the native men come 
rushing from their houses with their 
guns in their hands and mass in 
front of the largest house upon the 
beach. Then we were greeted by 
what seemed rather too warm a re- 
ception — a shower of bullets falling 
unpleasantly around us. Instinc- 
tively Muir and I ceased to paddle, 
but Tow-a-att commanded, ^^ Uuha, 
ui'hal — pull, pull ! " and slowly, amid 
the dropping bullets, we zigzagged 
our way up the channel towards the 
village. As we drew near the shore 
a line of runners extended down the 
beach to us, keeping within shouting 
distance of each other. Then came 
the questions like bullets — ^^ Gusu- 
wa-eh? — Who are you? Whence do 
you come? What is your business 
here?" And Stickeen John shouted 
back the reply: 

The Voyage 85 

''A great preacher-chief and a 
great ice-chief have come to bring 
you a good message." 

The answer was shouted back 
along the line, and then returned 
a message of greeting and welcome. 
We were to be the guests of the 
chief of Yin-des-tuk-ki, old Don-na- 
wuk (Silver Eye), so called because 
he was in the habit of wearing on 
all state occasions a huge pair of 
silver-bowed spectacles which a Rus- 
sian officer had given him. He con- 
fessed he could not see through 
them, but thought they lent dignity 
to his countenance. We paddled 
slowly up to the village, and Muir 
and I, watching with interest, saw 
the warriors all disappear. As our 
prow touched the sand, however, 
here they came, forty or fifty of 
them, without their guns this time, 
but charging down upon us with 
war-cries, ^^ Hoo-hooh, hoo-hooh/^ as 

86 Alaska Days with John Muir 

if they were going to take us pris- 
oners. Dashing into the water they 
ranged themselves along each side 
of the canoe; then lifting up our 
canoe with us in it they rushed with 
excited cries up the bank to the 
chiefs house and set us down at his 
door. It was the Thlinget way of 
paying us honor as great guests. 

Then we were solemnly ushered 
into the presence of Don-na-wuk. 
His house was large, covering about 
fifty by sixty feet of ground. The 
interior was built in the usual fash- 
ion of a chiefs house — carved corner 
posts, a square of gravel in the cen- 
ter of the room for the fire sur- 
rounded by great hewn cedar planks 
set on edge; a platform of some six 
feet in width running clear around 
the room; then other planks on edge 
and a high platform, where the chief- 
tain's household goods were stowed 
and where the family took their re- 

The Voyage 87 

pose. A brisk fire was burning in 
the middle of the room; and after 
a short palaver, with gifts of to- 
bacco and rice to the chief, it was 
announced that he would pay us the 
distinguished honor of feasting us 

It was a never-to-be-forgotten 
banquet. We were seated on the 
lower platform with our feet to- 
wards the fire, and before Muir and 
me were placed huge washbowls of 
blue Hudson Bay ware. Before each 
of our native attendants was placed 
a great carved wooden trough, hold- 
ing about as much as the washbowls. 
We had learned enough of Indian 
etiquette to know that at each course 
our respective vessels were to be 
filled full of food, and we were ex- 
pected to carry off what we could not 
devour. It was indeed a "feast of 
fat things." The first course was 
what, for the Indian, takes the place 

88 Alaska Days with John Muir 

of bread among the whites,— dried 
salmon. It was served, a whole 
washbowlful for each of us, with a 
dressing of seal-grease. Muir and I 
adroitly manoeuvred so as to get our 
salmon and seal-grease served sepa- 
rately; for our stomachs had not 
been sufficiently trained to endure 
that rancid grease. This course fin- 
ished, what was left was dumped 
into receptacles in our canoe and 
guarded from the dogs by young 
men especially appointed for that 
purpose. Our washbowls were 
cleansed and the second course 
brought on. This consisted of the 
back fat of the deer, great, long 
hunks of it, served with a gravy of 
seal-grease. The third course was 
little Russian potatoes about the size 
of walnuts, dished out to us, a wash- 
bowlful, with a dressing of seal- 
grease. The final course was the 
only berry then in season, the long 

The Voyage 89 

fleshy apple of the wild rose mel- 
lowed with frost, served to us in the 
usual quantity with the invariable 
sauce of seal-grease. 

" Mon, mon ! '' said Muir aside to 
me, "I'm fashed we'll be floppin' 
aboot i' the sea, whiles, wi' flippers 
an' forked tails." 

When we had partaken of as much 
of this feast of fat things as our 
civilized stomachs would stand, it 
was suddenly announced that we 
were about to receive a visit from 
the great chief of the Chilcats and 
the Chilcoots, old Chief Shathitch 
(Hard-to-Kill). In order to prop- 
erly receive His Majesty, Muir and 
I and our two chiefs were each given 
a whole bale of Hudson Bay blan- 
kets for a couch. Shathitch made us 
wait a long time, doubtless to im- 
press us with his dignity as supreme 

The heat of the fire after the wind 

90 Alaska Days with John Muir 

and cold of the day made us very 
drowsy. We fought off sleep, how- 
ever, and at last in came stalking the 
biggest chief of all Alaska, clothed 
in his robe of state, which was an 
elegant chinchilla blanket; and upon 
its yellow surface, as the chief slowly 
turned about to show us what was 
written thereon, we were aston- 
ished to see printed in black letters 
these words, "To Chief Shathitch, 
from his friend, William H. Sew- 
ard ! " We learned afterwards that 
Seward, in his voyage of investiga- 
tion, had penetrated to this far-off 
town, had been received in royal 
state by the old chief and on his 
return to the States had sent back 
this token of his appreciation of 
the chiefs hospitality. Whether 
Seward was regaled with viands 
similar to those offered to us, his- 
tory does not relate. 
To me the inspiring part of that 

The Voyage 91 

voyage came next day, when I 
preached from early morning until 
midnight, only occasionally relieved 
by Muir and by the responsive 
speeches of the natives. 

" More, more ; tell us more,'' they 
would cry. " It is a good talk ; we 
never heard this story before." And 
when I would inquire, " Of what do 
you wish me now to talk?" they 
would always say, "Tell us more of 
the Man from Heaven who died for 

Runners had been sent to the Chil- 
coot village on the eastern arm of 
Lynn Canal, and twenty-five miles 
up the Chilcat River to Shathitch's 
town of Klukwan; and as the day 
wore away the crowd of Indians had 
increased so greatly that there was 
no room for them in the large house. 
I heard a scrambling upon the roof, 
and looking up I saw a row of black 
heads around the great smoke-hole 

92 Alaska Days with John Muir 

in the center of the roof. After a 
little a ripping, tearing sound came 
from the sides of the building. They 
were prying off the planks in order 
that those outside might hear. 
When my voice faltered with long 
talking Tow-a-att and Kadishan 
took up the story, telling what they 
had learned of the white man's reli- 
gion; or Muir told the eager natives 
wonderful things about what the 
great one God, whose name is Love, 
was doing for them. The all-day 
meeting was only interrupted for an 
hour or two in the afternoon, when 
we walked with the chiefs across the 
narrow isthmus between Pyramid 
Harbor and the eastern arm of Lynn 
Canal, and I selected the harbor, 
farm and townsite now occupied by 
Haines mission and town and Fort 
William H. Seward. This was the 
beginning of the large missions of 
Haines and Klukwan. 



To heaven swells a mighty psalm of praise; 

Its music-sheets are glaciers, vast and white. 
Sky-piercing peaks the voiceless chorus raise, 

To fill with ecstasy the wond'ring night. 

Complete, with every part in sweet accord, 
Th' adoring breezes waft it up, on wings 

Of beauty-incense, giving to the Lord 
The purest sacrifice glad Nature brings. 

The list'ning stars with rapture beat and glow; 

The moon forgets her high, eternal calm 
To shout her gladness to the sea below. 

Whose waves are silver tongues to join the psalm. 

Those everlasting snow-fields are not cold; 

This icy solitude no barren waste. 
The crystal masses bum with love untold ; 

The glacier-table spreads a royal feast. 

Fairweather! Crillon! Warders at Heaven's gate! 

Hoar-headed priests of Nature's inmost shrine! 
Strong seraph forms in robes immaculate! 

Draw me from earth; enlighten, change, refine; 

Till I, one little note in this great song, 
Who -seem a blot upon th' unsullied white, 

No discord make — a note high, pure and strong — 
Set in the silent music of the night. 


THE nature-study part of the 
voyage was woven in with the 
missionary trip as intimately 
as warp with woof. No island, rock, 
forest, mountain or glacier which we 
passed, near or far, was neglected. 
We went so at our own sweet will, 
without any set time or schedule, 
that we were constantly finding ob- 
jects and points of surprise and in- 
terest. When we landed, the algae, 
which sometimes filled the little har- 
bors, the limpets and lichens of the 
rocks, the fucus pods that snapped 
beneath our feet, the grasses of the 
beach, the moss and shrubbery 
among the trees, and, more than all, 
the majestic forests, claimed atten- 


96 Alaska Days with John Muir 

tion and study. Muir was one of 
the most expert foresters this coun- 
try has ever produced. He was 
never at a loss. The luxuriant vege- 
tation of this wet coast filled him 
with admiration, and he never took 
a walk from camp but he had a 
whole volume of things to tell me, 
and he was constantly bringing in 
trophies of which he was prouder 
than any hunter of his antlers. Now 
it was a bunch of ferns as high as 
his head; now a cluster of minute 
and wonderfully beautiful moss blos- 
soms ; now a curious fungous growth ; 
now a spruce branch heavy with 
cones; and again he would call me 
into the forest to see a strange and 
grotesque moss formation on a dead 
stump, looking like a tree standing 
upon its head. Thus, although his 
objective was the glaciers, his thor- 
ough knowledge of botany and his 
interest in that study made every 

The Discovery 97 

camp just the place he wished to be. 
He always claimed that there was 
more of pure ethics and even of 
moral evil and good to be learned 
in the wilderness than from any book 
or in any abode of man. He was 
fond of quoting Wordsworth's 
stanza : 

" One impulse from a vernal wood 
Will teach you more of man, 
Of moral evil and of good. 
Than all the sages can." 

Muir was a devout theist. The 
Fatherhood of God and the Unity of 
God, the immanence of God in na- 
ture and His management of all the 
affairs of the universe, was his con- 
stantly reiterated belief. He saw de- 
sign in many things which the ordi- 
nary naturalist overlooks, such as 
the symmetry of an island, the bal- 
ancing branches of a tree, the har- 
mony of colors in a group of flowers, 

98 Alaska Days with John Mnir 

the completion of a fully rounded 
landscape. In his view, the Creator 
of it all saw every beautiful and sub- 
lime thing from every viewpoint, 
and had thus formed it, not merely 
for His own delight, but for the 
delectation and instruction of His 
human children. 

" Look at that, now,'' he would 
say, when, on turning a point, a 
wonderful vista of island-studded sea, 
between mountains, with one of 
Alaska's matchless sunsets at the 
end, would wheel into sight. " Why, 
it looks as if these giants of God's 
great army had just now marched 
into their stations; every one placed 
just right, just right! What land- 
scape gardening! What a scheme of 
things ! And to think that He should 
plan to bring us feckless creatures 
here at the right moment, and then 
flash such glories at us! Man, we're 
not worthy of such honor ! " 

The Discovery 99 

Thus Muir was always discovering 
to me things which I would never 
have seen myself and opening up to 
me new avenues of knowledge, de- 
light and adoration. There was 
something so intimate in his theism 
that it purified, elevated and broad- 
ened mine, even when I could not 
agree with him. His constant ex- 
clamation when a fine landscape 
would burst upon our view, or a 
shaft of light would pierce the clouds 
and glorify a mountain, was, " Praise 
God from whom all blessings flow ! " 

Two or three great adventures 
stand out prominently in this wonder- 
ful voyage of discovery. Two weeks 
from home brought us to Icy Straits 
and the homes of the Hoonah tribe. 
Here the knowledge of the way on 
the part of our crew ended. We put 
into the large Hoonah village on 
Chichagof Island. After the usual 
preaching and census-taking, we took 

100 Alaska Days with John Muir 

aboard a sub-chief of the Hoonahs, 
who was a noted seal hunter and, 
therefore, able to guide us among 
the ice-floes of the mysterious Gla- 
cier Bay of which we had heard. 
Vancouver's chart gave us no inti- 
mation of any inlet whatever; but 
the natives told of vast masses of 
floating ice, of a constant noise of 
thunder when they crashed from the 
glaciers into the sea; and also of 
fearsome bays and passages full of 
evil spirits which made them very 
perilous to navigate. 

In one bay there was said to be 
a giant devil-fish with arms as long 
as a tree, lurking in malignant pa- 
tience, awaiting the passage that 
way of an unwary canoe, when up 
would flash those terrible arms with 
their thousand suckers and, seizing 
their prey, would drag down the 
men to the bottom of the sea, there 
to be mangled and devoured by the 

The Discovery 101 

horrid beak. Another deep fiord was 
the abode of Koosta-kah, the Otter- 
man, the mischievous Puck of Indian 
lore, who was waiting for voyagers 
to land and camp, when he would 
seize their sleeping forms and trans- 
port them a dozen miles in a mo- 
ment, or cradle them on the tops of 
the highest trees. Again there was 
a most rapacious and ferocious killer- 
whale in a piece of swift water, 
whose delight it was to take into 
his great, tooth-rimmed jaws whole 
canoes with their crews of men, man- 
gling them and gulping them down 
as a single mouthful. Many were 
these stories of fear told us at the 
Hoonah village the night before we 
started to explore the icy bay, and 
our credulous Stickeens gave us 
rather broad hints that it was time 
to turn back. 

"There are no natives up in that 
region; there is nothing to hunt; 

102 Alaska Days with John Muir 

there is no gold there; why do you 
persist in this cultus coly (aimless 
journey)? You are likely to meet 
death and nothing else if you go into 
that dangerous region." 

All these stories made us the more 
eager to explore the wonders beyond, 
and we hastened away from Hoonah 
with our guide aboard. A day's sail 
brought us to a little, heavily wooded 
island near the mouth of Glacier Bay. 
This we named Pleasant Island. 

As we broke camp in the morning 
our guide said : " We must take on 
board a supply of dry wood here, as 
there is none beyond." 

Leaving this last green island we 
steered northwest into the great 
bay, the country of ice and bare 
rocks. Muir's excitement was in- 
creasing every moment, and as the 
majestic arena opened before us and 
the Muir, Geicke, Pacific and other 
great glaciers (all nameless as yet) 

The Discovery 108 

began to appear, he could hardly 
contain himself. He was impatient 
of any delay, and was constantly 
calling to the crew to redouble their 
efforts and get close to these won- 
ders. Now the marks of recent gla- 
ciation showed plainly. Here was a 
conical island of gray granite, whose 
rounded top and symmetrical shoul- 
ders were worn smooth as a Scotch 
monument by grinding glaciers. 
Here was a great mountain slashed 
sheer across its face, showing sharp 
edge and flat surface as if a slab of 
mountain size had been sawed from 
it. Yonder again loomed a granite 
range whose huge breasts were 
rounded and polished by the resist- 
less sweep of that great ice mass 
which Vancouver saw filling the 

Soon the icebergs were charging 
down upon us with the receding tide 
and dressing up in compact phalanx 

104 Alaska Days with John Muir 

when the tide arose. First would 
come the advance guard of smaller 
bergs, with here and there a house- 
like mass of cobalt blue with streaks 
of white and deeper recesses of ul- 
tramarine; here we passed an eight- 
sided, solid figure of bottle-green ice ; 
there towered an antlered formation 
like the horns of a stag. Now we 
must use all caution and give the 
larger icebergs a wide berth. They 
are treacherous creatures, these ice- 
bergs. You may be paddling along 
by a peaceful looking berg, sleeping 
on the water as mild and harmless 
as a lamb; when suddenly he will 
take a notion to turn over, and up 
under your canoe will come a spear 
of ice, impaling it and lifting it and 
its occupants skyward; then, turning 
over, down will go canoe and men 
to the depths. 

Our progress up the sixty miles of 
Glacier Bay was very slow. Three 

The Discovery 105 

nights we camped on the bare gran- 
ite rock before we reached the limit 
of the bay. All vegetation had dis- 
appeared; hardly a bunch of grass 
was seen. The only signs of former 
life were the sodden and splintered 
spruce and fir stumps that projected 
here and there from the bases of 
huge gravel heaps, the moraine mat- 
ter of the mighty ice mass that had 
engulfed them. They told the story 
of great forests which had once cov- 
ered this whole region, until the 
great sea of ice of the second gla- 
cial period overwhelmed and ground 
them down, and buried them deep 
under its moraine matter. When we 
landed there were no level spots on 
which to pitch our tent and no sandy 
beaches or gravel beds in which to 
sink our tent-poles. I learned from 
Muir the gentle art of sleeping on 
a rock, curled like a squirrel around 
a boulder. 

106 Alaska Days with John Muu* 

We passed by Muir Glacier on the 
other side of the bay, seeking to 
attain the extreme end of the great 
fiord. We estimated the distance by 
the tide and our rate of rowing, 
tracing the shore-line and islands as 
we went along and getting the points 
of the compass from our little pocket 
Rain was falling almost constantly 
during the week we spent in Glacier 
Bay. Now and then the clouds 
would lift, showing the twin peaks 
of La Perouse and the majestic sum- 
mits of Mts. Fairweather and Crillon. 
These mighty summits, twelve thou- 
sand, fifteen thousand and sixteen 
thousand feet high, respectively, 
pierced the sky directly above us; 
sometimes they seemed to be hang- 
ing over us threateningly. Only 
once did the sky completely clear; 
and then was preached to us the 
wonderful Sermon of Glacier Bay. 

The Discovery 107 

Early that morning we quitted our 
camp on a barren rock, steering to- 
wards Mt. Fairweather. A night of 
sleepless discomfort had ushered in 
a bleak gray morning. Our Indians 
were sullen and silent, their scowling 
looks resenting our relentless pur- 
pose to attain to the head of the 
bay. The air was damp and raw, 
chilling us to the marrow. The for- 
bidding granite mountains, showing 
here and there through the fog, 
seemed suddenly to push out threat- 
ening fists and shoulders at us. All 
night long the ice-guns had bom- 
barded us from four or five direc- 
tions, when the great masses of ice 
from living glaciers toppled into the 
sea, crashing and grinding with the 
noise of thunder. The granite walls 
hurled back the sound in reiterated 
peals, multiplying its volume a 

There was no Love apparent on 

108 Alaska Days wifh John Muir 

that bleak, gray morning : Power was 
there in appalling force. Visions of 
those evergreen forests that had once 
clung trustingly to these mountain 
walls, but had been swept, one and 
all, by the relentless forces of the ice 
and buried deep under mountains of 
moraine matter, but added to the 
present desolation. We could not 
enjoy; we could only endure. Death 
from overturning icebergs, from 
charging tides, from mountain ava- 
lanche, threatened us. 

Suddenly I heard Muir catch his 
breath with a fervent ejaculation. 
'*God, Almighty!" he said. Fol- 
lowing his gaze towards Mt. Crillon, 
I saw the summit highest of all 
crowned with glory indeed. It was 
not sunlight; there was no appear- 
ance of shining ; it was as if the Great 
Artist with one sweep of His brush 
had laid upon the king-peak of all 
a crown of the most brilliant of all 

The Discovery 109 

colors — as if a pigment, perfectly 
made and thickly spread, too deli- 
cate for crimson, too intense for 
pink, had leaped in a moment upon 
the mountain top; "An awful rose 
of dawn/' The summit nearest 
Heaven had caught a glimpse of its 
glory! It was a rose blooming in 
ice-fields, a love-song in the midst of 
a stern epic, a drop from the heart 
of Christ upon the icy desolation and 
barren affections of a sin-frozen 
world. It warmed and thrilled us in 
an instant. We who had been dull 
and apathetic a moment before, shiv- 
ering in our wet blankets, were glow- 
ing and exultant now. Even the 
Indians ceased their paddling, gazing 
with faces of awe upon the wonder. 
Now, as we watched that kingly 
peak, we saw the color leap to one 
and another and another of the 
snowy summits around it. The 
monarch had a whole family of royal 

110 Alaska Days with John Muir 

princes about him to share his glory. 
Their radiant heads, ruby crowned, 
were above the clouds, which seemed 
to form their silken garments. 

As we looked in ecstatic silence we 
saw the light creep down the moun- 
tains. It was changing now. The 
glowing crimson was suffused with 
soft, creamy light. If it was less 
divine, it was more warmly human. 
Heaven was coming down to man. 
The dark recesses of the mountains 
began to lighten. They stood forth 
as at the word of command from 
the Master of all; and as the chang- 
ing mellow light moved downward 
that wonderful colosseum appeared 
clearly with its battlements and 
peaks and columns, until the whole 
majestic landscape was revealed. 

Now we saw the design and pur- 
pose of it all. Now the text of this 
great sermon was emblazoned across 
the landscape — ^' God is Love "; and 

The Discovery 111 

we understood that these relentless 
forces that had pushed the molten 
mountains heavenward, cooled them 
into granite peaks, covered them 
with snow and ice, dumped the 
moraine matter into the sea, filling 
up the sea, preparing the world for 
a stronger and better race of men 
(who knows?), were all a part of 
that great " All things '' that " work 
together for good." 

Our minds cleared with the land- 
scape; our courage rose; our In- 
dians dipped their paddles silently, 
steering without fear amidst the dan- 
gerous masses of ice. But there was 
no profanity in Muir's exclamation, 
'' We have met with God ! " A life- 
long devoutness of gratitude filled 
us, to think that we were guided into 
this most wonderful room of God's 
great gallery, on perhaps the only 
day in the year when the skies were 
cleared and the sunrise, the atmos- 

112 Alaska Days wifh Jdrn Muir 

pheric conditions and the point of 
view all prepared for the matchless 
spectacle. The discomforts of the 
voyage, the toil, the cold and rain 
of the past weeks were a small price 
to pay for one glimpse of its surpass- 
ing loveliness. Again and again 
Muir would break out, after a long 
silence of blissful memory, with ex- 
clamations : 

" We saw it ; we saw it ! He sent 
us to His most glorious exhibition. 
Praise God, from whom all bless- 
ings flow ! " 

Two or three inspiring days fol- 
lowed. Muir must climb the most 
accessible of the mountains. My 
weak shoulders forbade me to as- 
cend more than two or three thou- 
sand feet, but Muir went more than 
twice as high. Upon two or three 
of the glaciers he climbed, although 
the speed of these icy streams was 
so great and their " frozen cataracts " 

The Discovery 118 

were so frequent, that it was difficult 
to ascend them. 

I began to understand Muir's 
whole new theory, which theory 
made Tyndall pronounce him the 
greatest authority on glacial action 
the world had seen. He pointed out 
to me the mechanical laws that gov- 
erned those slow-moving, resistless 
streams; how they carved their own 
valleys; how the lower valley and 
glacier were often the resultant in 
size and velocity of the two or 
three glaciers that now formed the 
branches of the main glaciers; how 
the harder strata of rock resisted 
and turned the masses of ice; how 
the steely ploughshares were often 
inserted into softer leads and a 
whole mountain split apart as by a 

Muir would explore all day long, 
often rising hours before daylight 
and disappearing among the moun- 

114 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

tains, not coming to camp until after 
night had fallen. Again and again 
the Indians said that he was lost ; but 
I had no fears for him. When he 
would return to camp he was so full 
of his discoveries and of the new 
facts garnered that he would talk 
until long into the night, almost for- 
getting to eat. 

Returning down the bay, we 
passed the largest glacier of all, 
which was to bear Muir's name. It 
was then fully a mile and a half in 
width, and the perpendicular face 
of it towered from four to seven hun- 
dred feet above the surface of the 
water. The ice masses were break- 
ing off so fast that we were forced 
to put off far from the face of the 
glacier. The great waves threat- 
ened constantly to dash us against 
the sharp points of the icebergs. We 
wished to land and scale the glacier 
from the eastern side. We rowed 

5 -2 E 

O « u, 

The Discovery 115 

our canoe about half a mile from 
the edge of the glacier, but, attempt- 
ing to land, were forced hastily to 
put off again. A great wave, formed 
by the masses of ice breaking off 
into the water, threatened to dash 
our loaded canoe against the boul- 
ders on the beach. Rowing further 
away, we tried it again and again, 
with the same result. As soon as 
we neared the shore another huge 
wave would threaten destruction. 
We were fully a mile and a half 
from the edge of the glacier before 
we found it safe to land. 

Muir spent a whole day alone on 
the glacier, walking over twenty 
miles across what he called the gla- 
cial lake between two mountains. A 
cold, penetrating, mist-like rain was 
falling, and dark clouds swept up 
the bay and clung about the shoul- 
ders of the mountains. When night 
approached and Muir had not re- 

116 Alaska Days with John Muir 

turned, I set the Indians to digging 
out from the bases of the gravel hills 
the frazzled stumps and logs that 
remained of the buried forests. 
These were full of resin and burned 
brightly. I made a great fire and 
cooked a good supper of venison, 
beans, biscuit and coffee. When 
pitchy darkness gathered, and still 
Muir did not come, Tow-a-att made 
some torches of fat spruce, and tak- 
ing with him Charley, laden with 
more wood, he went up the beach a 
mile and a half, climbed the base of 
the mountain and kindled a beacon 
which flashed its cheering rays far 
over the glacier. 

Muir came stumbling into camp 
with these two Indians a little be- 
fore midnight, very tired but very 
happy. "Ah!" he sighed, " Fm 
glad to be in camp. The glacier 
almost got me this time. If it had 
not been for the beacon and old 

The Discovery 117 

Tow-a-att, I might have had to spend 
the night on the ice. The crevasses 
were so many and so bewildering In 
their mazy, crisscross windings that 
I was actually going farther into 
the glacier when I caught the flash 
of light." 

I brought him to the tent and 
placed the hot viands before him. 
He attacked them ravenously, but 
presently was talking again : 

" Man, man ; you ought to have 
been with me. You'll never make 
up what you have lost to-day. IVe 
been wandering through a thousand 
rooms of God's crystal temple. IVe 
been a thousand feet down in the 
crevasses, with matchless domes and 
sculptured figures and carved ice- 
work all about me. Solomon's mar- 
ble and ivory palaces were nothing 
to it. Such purity, such color, such 
delicate beauty! I was tempted to 
stay there and feast my soul, and 

118 Alaska Days with John Miur 

softly freeze, until I would become 
part of the glacier. What a great 
death that would be ! " 

Again and again I would have to 
remind Muir that he was eating his 
supper, but it was more than an hour 
before I could get him to finish 
the meal, and two or three hours 
longer before he stopped talking and 
went to sleep. I wish I had taken 
down his descriptions. What splen- 
did reading they would make! 

But scurries of snow warned us 
that winter was coming, and, much 
to the relief of our natives, we turned 
the prow of our canoe towards Chat- 
ham Strait again. Landing our 
Hoonah guide at his village, we took 
our route northward again up Lynn 
Canal. The beautiful Davison Gla- 
cier with its great snowy fan drew 
our gaze and excited our admiration 
for two days; then the visit to the 
Chilcats and the return trip com- 

The Discovery 119 

menced. Bowling down the canal 
before a strong north wind, we en- 
tered Stevens Passage, and visited 
the two villages of the Auk Indians, 
a squalid, miserable tribe. We 
camped at the site of what is now 
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, and 
no dream of the millions of gold 
that were to be taken from those 
mountains disturbed us. If we had 
known, I do not think that we would 
have halted a day or staked a claim. 
Our treasures were richer than gold 
and securely laid up in the vaults of 
our memories. 

An excursion into Taku Bay, that 
miniature of Glacier Bay, with its 
then three living glaciers; a visit to 
two villages of the Taku Indians; 
past Ft. Snettisham, up whose arms 
we pushed, mapping them; then to 
Sumdum. Here the two arms of 
Holkham Bay, filled with ice, en- 
ticed us to exploration, but the con- 

120 Alaska Days with John Muir 

stant rains of the fall had made the 
ice of the glaciers more viscid and 
the glacier streams more rapid; 
hence the vast array of icebergs 
charging down upon us like an army, 
spreading out in loose formation 
and then gathering into a barrier 
when the tide turned, made explora- 
tion to the end of the bay impossi- 
ble. Muir would not give* up his 
quest of the mother glacier until the 
Indians frankly refused to go any 
further; and old Tow-a-att called our 
interpreter, Johnny, as for a counsel 
of state, and carefully set forth to 
Muir that if he persisted in his pur- 
pose of pushing forward up the bay 
he would have the blood of the whole 
party on his hands. 

Said the old chief : " My life is of 
no account, and it does not matter 
whether I live or die; but you shall 
not sacrifice the life of my min- 

The Discovery 121 

I laughed at Muir's discomfiture 
and gave the word to retreat. This 
one defeat of a victorious expedition 
so weighed upon Muir's mind that it 
brought him back from the California 
coast next year and from the arms 
of his bride to discover and climb 
upon that glacier. 

On down now through Prince 
Frederick Sound, past the beautiful 
Norris Glacier, then into Le Conte 
Bay with its living glacier and ice- 
bergs, across the Stickeen flats, and 
so joyfully home again, Muir to take 
the November steamboat back to his 

I have made many voyages in that 
great Alexandrian Archipelago since, 
traveling by canoe over fifteen thou- 
sand miles — not one of them a dull one 
— through its intricate passages; but 
none compared, in the number and 
intensity of its thrills, in the variety 
and excitement of its incidents and 

122 Alaska Days with John Muir 

in its lasting impressions of beauty 
and grandeur, with this first voyage 
when we groped our way northward 
with only Vancouver's old chart as 
our guide. 



A dreary world! The constant rain 

Beats back to earth blithe fancy's wings; 
And life — a sodden garment — cUngs 

About a body numb with pain. 

Imagination ceased with light; 

Of Nature's psalm no echo lingers. 

The death-cold mist, with ghostly fingers, 
Shrouds world and soul in rayless night 

An inky sea, a sullen crew, 

A frail canoe's uncertain motion; 
A whispered talk of wind and ocean. 

As plotting secret crimes to do! 

The vampire-night sucks all my blood; 

Warm home and love seem lost for aye ; 

From cloud to cloud I steal away, 
Like guilty soul o'er Stygian flood. 

Peace, morbid heart! From paddle blade 
See the black water flash in light; 
And bars of moonbeams streaming white. 

Have pearls of ebon raindrops made. 

From darkest sea of deep despair 

Gleams Hope, awaked by Action's blow; 
And Faith's clear ray, though clouds hang low. 

Slants up to heights serene and fair. 


JOHN MUIR was married in the 
spring of 1880 to Miss Strentzel, 
the daughter of a Polish physi- 
cian who had come out in the great 
stampede of 1849 to California, but 
had found his gold in oranges, lem- 
ons and apricots on a great fruit 
ranch at Martinez, California. A 
brief letter from Muir told of his 
marriage, with just one note in it, 
the depth of joy and peace of which 
I could fathom, knowing him so well. 
Then no word of him until the 
monthly mailboat came in Septem- 
ber. As I stood on the wharf with 
the rest of the Wrangell population, 
as was the custom of our isolation, 
watching the boat come in, I was 


126 Alaska Days with John Miur 

overjoyed to see John Muir on deck, 
in that same old, long, gray ulster 
and Scotch cap. He waved and 
shouted at me before the boat 
touched the wharf. 

Springing ashore he said, "When 
can you be ready ? " 

''Aren't you a little fast?" I re- 
plied. ''What does this mean? 
Where's your wife?" 

" Man," hg exclaimed, " have you 
forgotten? Don't you know we lost 
a glacier last fall? Do you think I 
could sleep soundly in my bed this 
winter with that hanging on my con- 
science? My wife could not come, 
so I have come alone and you've got 
to go with me to find the lost. Get 
your canoe and crew and let us be 

The ten months since Muir had 
left me had not been spent in idleness 
at Wrangell. I had made two long 
voyages of discovery and missionary 

The Lost Glacier 127 

work on my own account, — one in 
the spring, of four hundred fifty 
miles around Prince of Wales 
Island, visiting the five towns of 
Hydah Indians and the three vil- 
lages of the Hanega tribe of Thlin- 
gets. Another in the summer down the 
coast to the Cape Fox and Tongass 
tribes of Thlingets, and across Dixon 
entrance to Ft. Simpson, where there 
was a mission among the Tsimphe- 
ans, and on fifteen miles further to 
the famous mission of Father Dun- 
can at Metlakahtla. I had written 
accounts of these trips to Muir; but 
for him the greatest interest was in 
the glaciers and mountains of the 

Our preparations were soon made. 
Alas! we could not have our noble 
old captain, Tow-a-att, this time. On 
the tenth of January, 1880, — the 
darkest day of my life, — this "no- 
blest Roman of them all'* fell dead 

128 Alaska Days with John Muir 

at my feet with a bullet through his 
forehead, shot by a member of that 
same Hootz-noo tribe where he had 
preached the gospel of peace so sim- 
ply and eloquently a few months be- 
fore. The Hootz-noos, maddened by 
the fiery liquor that bore their name, 
came to Wrangell, and a preliminary 
skirmish led to an attack at daylight 
of that winter day upon the Stickeen 
village. Old Tow-a-att had stood for 
peace, and rather than have any 
bloodshed had offered all his blan- 
kets as a peace offering, although 
in no physical fear himself; but when 
the Hootz-noos, encouraged by the 
seeming cowardice of the Stickeens, 
broke into their houses, and the 
Christianized tribe, provoked beyond 
endurance, came out with their guns, 
Tow-a-att came forth armed only 
with his old carved spear, the em- 
blem of his position as chief, to see 
if he could not call his tribe back 

The Lost Glacier 129 

again. At my instance, as I stood 
with my hand on his shoulder, he 
lifted up his voice to recall his peo- 
ple to their houses, when, in an in- 
stant, the volley commenced on both 
sides, and this Christian man, one 
of the simplest and grandest souls 
I ever knew, fell dead at my feet, and 
the tribe was tumbled back into bar- 
barism; and the white man, who had 
taught the Indians the art of mak- 
ing rum, and the white man's gov- 
ernment, which had afforded no safe- 
guard against such scenes, were 

Muir mourned with me the fate of 
this old chief; but another of my men. 
Lot Tyeen, was ready with a swift 
canoe. Joe, his son-in-law, and Billy 
Dickinson, a half-breed boy of seven- 
teen who acted as interpreter, formed 
the crew. When we were about to 
embark I suddenly thought of my 
little dog Stickeen and made the 

180 Alaska Days with John Muir 

resolve to take him along. My wife 
and Muir both protested and I al- 
most yielded to their persuasion. I 
shudder now to think what the world 
would have lost had their arguments 
prevailed! That little, long-haired, 
brisk, beautiful, but very independ- 
ent dog, in co-ordination with Muir's 
genius, was to give to the world one 
of its greatest dog-classics. Muir's 
story of " Stickeen " ranks with 
" Rab and His Friends," " Bob, Son 
of Battle," and far above " The Call 
of the Wild." Indeed, in subtle 
analysis of dog character, as well 
as beauty of description, I think it 
outranks all of them. All over the 
world men, women and children are 
reading with laughter, thrills and 
tears this exquisite little story. 

I have told Muir that in his book 
he did not do justice to my puppy's 
beauty. I think that he was the 
handsomest dog I have ever known. 

The Lost Glacier 181 

His markings were very much like 
those of an American Shepherd dog 
— black, white and tan; although he 
was not half the size of one; but his 
hair was so silky and so long, his 
tail so heavily fringed and beauti- 
fully curved, his eyes so deep and 
expressive and his shape so perfect 
in its graceful contours, that I have 
never seen another dog quite like 
him; otherwise Muir's description of 
him is perfect. 

When Stickeen was only a round 
ball of silky fur as big as one's fist, 
he was given as a wedding present to 
my bride, two years before this voy- 
age. I carried him in my overcoat 
pocket to and from the steamer as 
we sailed from Sitka to Wrangell. 
Soon after we arrived a solemn dele- 
gation of Stickeen Indians came to 
call on the bride ; but as soon as they 
saw the puppy they were solemn no 
longer. His gravely humorous an- 

182 Alaska Days with John Muir 

tics were irresistible. It was Moses 
who named him Stickeen after their 
tribe — an exceptional honor. There- 
after the whole tribe adopted and 
protected him, and woe to the In- 
dian dog which molested him. Once 
when I was passing the house of 
this same Lot Tyeen, one of his 
large hunting dogs dashed out at 
Stickeen and began to worry him. 
Lot rescued the little fellow, deliv- 
ered him to me and walked into his 
house. Soon he came out with his 
gun, and before I knew what he 
was about he had shot the offend- 
ing Indian dog — b, valuable hunting 

Stickeen lacked the obtrusively af- 
fectionate manner of many of his 
species, did not like to be fussed 
over, would even growl when our 
babies enmeshed their hands in his 
long hair; and yet, to a degree I 
have never known in another dog. 

The Lost Glacier 188 

he attracted the attention of every- 
body and won all hearts. 

As instances: Dr. Kendall, "The 
Grand Old Man " of our Church, dur- 
ing his visit of 1879 used to break 
away from solemn counsels with the 
other D.D.s and the carpenters to 
run after and shout at Stickeen. 
And Mrs. McFarland, the Mother of 
Protestant missions in Alaska, often 
begged us to give her the dog; and, 
when later he was stolen from her 
care by an unscrupulous tourist and 
so forever lost to us, she could hardly 
afterwards speak of him without 

Stickeen was a born aristocrat, 
dainty and scrupulously clean. From 
puppyhood he never cared to play 
with the Indian dogs, and I was 
often amused to see the dignified but 
decided way in which he repulsed all 
attempts at familiarity on the part of 
the Indian children. He admitted 

184 Alaska Days with John Muir 

to his friendship only a few of the 
natives, choosing those who had 
adopted the white man's dress and 
mode of living, and were devoid of 
the rank native odors. His likes 
and dislikes were very strong and 
always evident from the moment of 
his meeting with a stranger. There 
was something almost uncanny 
about the accuracy of his judgment 
when " sizing up " a man. 

It was Stickeen himself who really 
decided the question whether we 
should take him with us on this trip. 
He listened to the discussion, pro 
and con, as he stood with me on the 
wharf, turning his sharp, expressive 
eyes and sensitive ears up to me or 
down to Muir in the canoe. When 
the argument seemed to be going 
against the dog he suddenly turned, 
deliberately walked down the gang- 
plank to the canoe, picked his steps 
carefully to the bow, where my seat 

The Lost Glacier 186 

with Muir was arranged, and curled 
himself down on my coat. The dis- 
cussion ended abruptly in a general 
laugh, and Stickeen went along. 

Then the acute little fellow set 
about, in the wisest possible way, to 
conquer Muir. He was not obtru- 
sive, never " butted in '' ; never of- 
fended by a too affectionate tongue. 
He listened silently to discussions on 
his merits, those first days ; but when 
Muir's comparisons of the brilliant 
dogs of his acquaintance with Stick- 
een grew too '' odious '' Stickeen 
would rise, yawn openly and retire 
to a distance, not slinkingly, but with 
tail up, and lie down again out of 
earshot of such calumnies. When 
we landed after a day's journey 
Stickeen was always the first ashore, 
exploring for field mice and squir- 
rels ; but when we would start to the 
woods, the mountains or the glaciers 
the dog would join us, coming mys- 

186 Alaska Days with John Muir 

teriously from the forest. When our 
paths separated, Stickeen, looking to 
me for permission, would follow 
Muir, trotting at first behind him, 
but gradually ranging alongside. 

After a few days Muir changed his 
tone, saying, "There's more in that 
wee beastie than I thought"; and 
before a week passed Stickeen's vic- 
tory was complete; he slept at Muir's 
feet, went with him on all his ram- 
bles; and even among dangerous 
crevasses or far up the steep slopes 
of granite mountains the little dog's 
splendid tail would be seen ahead of 
Muir, waving cheery signals to his 
new-found human companion. 

Our canoe was light and easily 
propelled. Our outfit was very sim- 
ple, for this was to be a quick voyage 
and there were not to be so many 
missionary visits this time. It was 
principally a voyage of discovery; 
we were in search of the glacier that 

The Lost Glacier 187 

we had lost. Perched in the high 
stern sat our captain, Lot Tyeen, 
massive and capable, handling his 
broad steering paddle with power 
and skill. In front of him Joe and 
Billy pulled oars, Joe, a strong young 
man, our cook, hunter and best oars- 
man; Billy, a lad of seventeen, our 
interpreter and Joe's assistant. To- 
wards the bow, just behind the mast, 
sat Muir and I, each with a paddle 
in his hands. Stickeen slumbered 
at our feet or gazed into our faces 
when our conversation interested 
him. When we began to discuss a 
landing place he would climb the high 
bow and brace himself on the top of 
the beak, an animated figure-head, 
ready to jump into the water when 
we were about to camp. 

Our route was different from that 
of '79. Now we struck through 
Wrangell Narrows, that tortuous 
and narrow passage between Mitkof 

188 Alaska Days with John Muir 

and Kupreanof Islands, past Norris 
Glacier with its far-flung shaft of 
ice appearing above the forests as if 
suspended in air; past the bold Pt. 
Windham with its bluff of three 
thousand feet frowning upon the wa- 
ters of Prince Frederick Sound; 
across Port Houghton, whose deep 
fiord had no ice in it and, therefore, 
was not worthy of an extended visit. 
We made all haste, for Muir was, as 
the Indians said, " always hungry 
for ice," and this was more espe- 
cially his expedition. He was the 
commander now, as I had been the 
year before. He had set for him- 
self the limit of a month and must 
return by the October boat. Often 
we ran until late at night against 
the protests of our Indians, whose 
life of infinite leisure was not ac- 
customed to such rude interruption. 
They could not understand Muir at 
all, nor in the least comprehend his 

The Lost Glacier 189 

object in visiting icy bays where 
there was no chance of finding gold 
and nothing to hunt. 

The vision rises before me, as my 
mind harks back to this second trip 
of seven hundred miles, of cold, rainy 
nights, when, urged by Muir to make 
one more point, the natives passed 
the last favorable camping place and 
we blindly groped for hours in pitchy 
darkness, trying to find a friendly 
beach. The intensely phosphores- 
cent water flashed about us, the only 
relief to the inky blackness of the 
night. Occasionally a salmon or a 
big halibut, disturbed by our canoe, 
went streaming like a meteor 
through the water, throwing off 
coruscations of light. As we neared 
the shore, the waves breaking upon 
the rocks furnished us the only illu- 
mination. Sometimes their black 
tops with waving seaweed, sur- 
rounded by phosphorescent breakers. 

140 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

would have the appearance of mouths 
set with gleaming teeth rushing at 
us out of the dark as if to devour 
us. Then would come the landing 
on a sandy beach, the march through 
the seaweed up to the wet woods, a 
fusillade of exploding fucus pods ac- 
companying us as if the outraged 
fairies were bombarding us with tiny 
guns. Then would ensue a tedious 
groping with the lantern for a camp- 
ing place and for some dry, fat spruce 
wood from which to coax a fire ; then 
the big camp-fire, the bean-pot and 
coffee-pot, the cheerful song and 
story, and the deep, dreamless sleep 
that only the weary voyageur or 
hunter can know. 

Four or five days sufficed to bring 
us to our first objective — Sumdum or 
Holkham Bay, with its three won- 
derful arms. Here we were to find 
the lost glacier. This deep fiord has 
two great prongs. Neither of them 

The Lost Glacier 141 

figured in Vancouver's chart, and 
so far as records go we were the 
first to enter and follow to its end 
the longest of these, Endicott Arm. 
We entered the bay at night, caught 
again by the darkness, and groped 
our way uncertainly. We probably 
would have spent most of the night 
trying to find a landing place had not 
the gleam of a fire greeted us, flash- 
ing through the trees, disappearing 
as an island intervened, and again 
opening up with its fair ray as we 
pushed on. An hour's steady pad- 
dling brought us to the camp of some 
Cassiar miners — my friends. They 
were here at the foot of a glacier 
stream, from the bed of which they 
had been sluicing gold. Just now 
they were in hard luck, as the con- 
stant rains had swelled the glacial 
stream, burst through their wing- 
dams, swept away their sluice-boxes 
and destroyed the work of the sum- 

142 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

men Strong men of the wilderness 
as they were, they were not discour- 
aged, but were discussing plans for 
prospecting new places and trying it 
again here next summer. Hot cof- 
fee and fried venison emphasized 
their welcome, and we in return 
could give them a little news from 
the outside world, from which they 
had been shut off completely for 

Muir called us before daylight the 
next morning. He had been up since 
two or three o'clock, " studying the 
night effects," he said, listening to 
the roaring and crunching of the 
charging ice as it came out of Endi- 
cott Arm, spreading out like the skir- 
mish line of an army and grinding 
against the rocky point just below us. 
He had even attempted a moonlight 
climb up the sloping face of a high 
promontory with Stickeen as his 
companion, but was unable to get to 

The Lost Glacier 148 

the top, owing to the smoothness of 
the granite rock. It was newly gla- 
ciated — this whole region — and the 
hard rubbing ice-tools had polished 
the granite like a monument. A 
hasty meal and we were off. 

"We'll find it this time," said 

A miner crawled out of his blan- 
kets and came to see us start. " If 
it's scenery you're after," he said, 
" ten miles up the bay there's the 
nicest canyon you ever saw. It has 
no name that I know of, but it is sure 
some scenery." 

The long, straight fiord stretched 
southeast into the heart of the gran- 
ite range, its funnel shape producing 
tremendous tides. When the tide 
was ebbing that charging phalanx 
of ice was irresistible, storming down 
the canyon with race-horse speed; 
no canoe could stem that current. 
We waited until the turn, then get- 

144 Alaska Days with John Muir 

ting inside the outer fleet of ice- 
bergs we paddled up with the flood 
tide. Mile after mile we raced past 
those smooth mountain shoulders; 
higher and higher they towered, and 
the ice, closing in upon us, threat- 
ened a trap. The only way to navi- 
gate safely that dangerous fiord was 
to keep ahead of the charging ice. 
As we came up towards the end of 
the bay the narrowing walls of the 
fiord compressed the ice until it 
crowded dangerously around us. 
Our captain, Lot, had taken the pre- 
caution to put a false bow and stern 
on his canoe, cunningly fashioned out 
of curved branches of trees and hol- 
lowed with his hand-adz to fit the 
ends of the canoe. These were 
lashed to the bow and stern by 
thongs of deer sinew. They were 
needed. It was like penetrating an 
arctic ice-floe. Sometimes we would 
have to skirt the granite rock and 

The Lost Glacier 145 

with our poles shove out the ice- 
cakes to secure a passage. It was 
fully thirty miles to the head of the 
bay, but we made it in half a day, 
so strong was the current of the ris- 
ing tide. 

I shall never forget the view that 
burst upon us as we rounded the last 
point. The face of the glacier where 
it discharged its icebergs was very 
narrow in comparison with the gi- 
ants of Glacier Bay, but the ice cliflf 
was higher than even the face of 
Muir Glacier. The narrow canyon 
of hard granite had compressed the 
ice of the great glacier until it had 
the appearance of a frozen torrent 
broken into innumerable crevasses, 
the great masses of ice tumbling over 
one another and bulging out for a 
few moments before they came 
crashing and splashing down into 
the deep water of the bay. The 
fiord was simply a cleft in high 

146 Alaska Days with John Muir 

mountains, and the depth of the wa- 
ter could only be conjectured. It 
must have been hundreds of feet, 
perhaps thousands, from the sur- 
face of the water to the bottom of 
that fissure. Smooth, polished, shin- 
ing breasts of bright gray granite 
crowded above the glacier on every 
side, seeming to overhang the ice and 
the bay. Struggling clumps of ever- 
greens clung to the mountain sides 
below the glacier, and up, away up, 
dizzily to the sky towered the walls 
of the canyon. Hundreds of other 
Alaskan glaciers excel this in masses 
of ice and in grandeur of front, but 
none that I have seen condense 
beauty and grandeur to finer results. 
" What a plucky little giant ! " was 
Muir's exclamation as we stood on 
a rock-mound in front of this gla- 
cier. "To think of his shouldering 
his way through the mountain range 
like this! Samson, pushing down 

The Lost Glacier 147 

the pillars of the temple at Gaza, was 
nothing to this fellow. Hear him 
roar and laugh ! '' 

Without consulting me Muir 
named this '' Young Glacier/' and 
right proud was I to see that name 
on the charts for the next ten years 
or more, for we mapped Endicott 
Arm and the other arm of Sumdum 
Bay as we had Glacier Bay; but later 
maps have a different name. Some 
ambitious young ensign on a survey- 
ing vessel, perhaps, stole my glacier, 
and later charts give it the name of 
Dawes. I have not found in the 
Alaskan statute books any penalty 
attached to the crime of stealing 
a glacier, but certainly it ought to 
be ranked as a felony of the first 
magnitude, the grandest of grand 

A couple of days and nights spent 
in the vicinity of Young Glacier were 
a period of unmixed pleasure. Muir 

148 Alaska Days with John Muir 

spent all of these days and part of 
the nights climbing the pinnacled 
mountains to this and that view- 
point, crossing the deep, narrow and 
dangerous glacier five thousand feet 
above the level of the sea, explor-7 
ing its tributaries and their side 
canyons, making sketches in his 
note-book for future elaboration. 
Stickeen by this time constantly fol- 
lowed Muir, exciting my jealousy by 
his plainly expressed preference. Be- 
cause of my bad shoulder the higher 
and steeper ascents of this very 
rugged region were impossible to 
me, and I must content myself with 
two thousand feet and even lesser 
climbs. My favorite perch was on 
the summit of a sugar-loaf rock 
which formed the point of a promon- 
tory jutting into the bay directly 
in front of my glacier, and distant 
from its face less than a quarter of 
a mile. It was a granite fragment 

The Lost Glacier 149 

which had evidently been broken 
off from the mountain; indeed, there 
was a niche five thousand feet above 
into which it would exactly fit. The 
sturdy evergreens struggled half- 
way up its sides, but the top was 

On this splendid pillar I spent 
many hours. Generally I could see 
Muir, fortunate in having sound arms 
and legs, scaling the high rock-faces, 
now coming out on a jutting spur, 
now spread like a spider against the 
mountain wall. Here he would be 
botanizing in a patch of green that 
relieved the gray of the granite, 
there he was dodging in and out of 
the blue crevasses of the upper gla- 
cial falls. Darting before him or 
creeping behind was a little black 
speck which I made out to be Stick- 
een, climbing steeps up which a fox 
would hardly venture. Occasionally 
I would see him dancing about at 

150 Alaska Days with John Muir 

the base of a cliff too steep for him, 
up which Muir was climbing, and 
his piercing howls of protest at be- 
ing left behind would come echoing 
down to me. 

But chiefly I was engrossed in the 
great drama which was being acted 
before me by the glacier itself. It 
was the battle of gravity with flinty 
hardness and strong cohesion. The 
stage setting was perfect; the great 
hall formed by encircling mountains; 
the side curtains of dark-green for- 
est, fold on fold ; the gray and brown 
top-curtains of the mountain heights 
stretching clear across the glacier, 
relieved by vivid moss and flower 
patches of yellow, magenta, violet 
and crimson. But the face of the 
glacier was so high and rugged and 
the ice so pure that it showed a va- 
riety of blue and purple tints I have 
never seen surpassed — baby-blue, 
sky-blue, sapphire, turquoise, co- 

The Lost Glacier 151 

bait, indigo, peacock, ultra-marine, 
shading at the top into lilac and 
amethyst. The base of the glacier- 
face, next to the dark-green water 
of the bay, resembled a great mass 
of vitriol, while the top, where it 
swept out of the canyon, had the 
curves and tints and delicate lines 
of the iris. 

But the glacier front was not still; 
in form and color it was changing 
every minute. The descent was so 
steep that the glacial rapids above 
the bay must have flowed forward 
eighty or a hundred feet a day. The 
ice cliff, towering a thousand feet 
over the water, would present a 
slight incline from the perpendicular 
inwards toward the canyon, the face 
being white from powdered ice, the 
result of the grinding descent of the 
ice masses. Here and there would 
be little cascades of this fine ice 
spraying out as they fell, with glints 

152 Alaska Days with John Muir 

of prismatic colors when the sun- 
light struck them. As I gazed I 
could see the whole upper part of 
the cliff slowly moving forward un- 
til the ice-face was vertical. Then, 
foot by foot it would be pushed out 
until the upper edge overhung the 
water. Now the outer part, denuded 
of the ice powder, would present a 
face of delicate blue with darker 
shades where the mountain peaks 
cast their shadows. Suddenly from 
top to bottom of the ice cliff two 
deep lines of prussian blue appeared. 
They were crevasses made by the 
ice current flowing more rapidly in 
the center of the stream. Fasci- 
nated, I watched this great pyramid 
of blue-veined onyx lean forward 
until it became a tower of Pisa, with 
fragments falling thick and fast 
from its upper apex and from the 
cliffs out of which it had been split. 
Breathless and anxious, I awaited 

The Lost Glacier 158 

the final catastrophe, and its long 
delay became almost a greater strain 
than I could bear. I jumped up and 
down and waved my arms and 
shouted at the glacier to "hurry 

Suddenly the climax came in a sur- 
prising way. The great tower of 
crystal shot up into the air two hun- 
dred feet or more, impelled by the 
pressure of a hundred fathoms of 
water, and then, toppling over, came 
crashing into the water with a roar 
as of rending mountains. Its weight 
of thousands of tons, falling from 
such a height, splashed great sheets 
of water high into the air, and a 
rainbow of wondrous brilliance 
flashed and vanished. A mighty 
wave swept majestically down the 
bay, rocking the massive bergs like 
corks, and, breaking against my 
granite pillar, tossed its spray half- 
way up to my lofty perch. Muir's 

154 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

shout of applause and Stickeen's 
sharp bark came faintly to my ears 
when the deep rumbling of the newly 
formed icebergs had subsided. 

That night I waited supper long 
for Muir. It was a good supper — 
a mulligan stew of mallard duck, 
with biscuits and coffee. Stickeen 
romped into camp about ten o'clock 
and his new master soon followed. 

" Ah ! *' sighed Muir between sips 
of coffee, "what a Lord's mercy it 
is that we lost this glacier last fall, 
when we were pressed for time, to 
find it again in these glorious days 
that have flashed out of the mists 
for our special delectation. This 
has been a day of days. I have 
found four new varieties of moss, 
and have learned many new and 
wonderful facts about world-shaping. 
And then, the wonder and glory! 
Why, all the values of beauty and 
sublimity — form, color, motion and 

The Lost Glacier 155 

sound — have been present to-day at 
their very best. My friend, we are 
the richest men in all the world 

Charging down the canyon with 
the charging ice on our return, we 
kept to the right-hand shore, on the 
watch for the mouth of the canyon 
of " some scenery." We had not 
been able to discover it from the 
other side as we ascended the fiord. 
We were almost swept past the 
mouth of it by the force of the cur- 
rent. Paddling into an eddy, we 
were suddenly halted as if by a 
strong hand pushed against the bow, 
for the current was flowing like a 
cataract out of the narrow mouth of 
this side canyon. A rocky shelf af- 
forded us a landing place. We 
hastily unloaded the canoe and pulled 
it up upon the beach out of reach of 
the floating ice, and there we had 
to wait until the next morning be- 

156 Alaska Days with John Muir 

fore we could penetrate the depths 
of this great canyon. 

We shot through the mouth of the 
canyon at dangerous speed. In- 
deed, we could not do otherwise; we 
were helpless in the grasp of the 
torrent. At certain stages the surg- 
ing tide forms an actual fall, for the 
entrance is so narrow that the wa- 
ter heaps up and pours over. We 
took the beginning of the flood tide, 
and so escaped that danger; but our 
speed must have been, at the nar- 
rows, twenty miles an hour. Then, 
suddenly, the bay widened out, the 
water ceased to swirl and boil and 
the current became gentle. 

When we could lay aside our pad- 
dles and look up, one of the most 
glorious views of the whole world 
"' smote us in the face,'* and Muir's 
chant arose, " Praise God from whom 
all blessings flow.'' 

Before entering this bay I had ex- 

The Lost Glacier 167 

pressed a wish to see Yosemite 
Valley. Now Muir said: "There is 
your Yosemite; only this one is on 
much the grander scale. Yonder 
towers El Capitan, grown to twice 
his natural size; there are the Senti- 
nel, and the majestic Dome; and 
see all the falls. Those three have 
some resemblance to Yosemite Falls, 
Nevada and Bridal Veil; but the 
mountain breasts from which they 
leap are much higher than in Yo- 
semite, and the sheer drop much 
greater. And there are so many 
more of these and they fall into the 
sea. We'll call this Yosemite Bay — 
a bigger Yosemite, as Alaska is big- 
ger than California.^' 

Two very beautiful glaciers lay at 
the head of this canyon. They did 
not descend to the water, but the 
narrow strip of moraine matter with- 
out vegetation upon it between the 
glaciers and the bay showed that 

158 Alaska Days with John Muir 

it had not been long since they were 
glaciers of the first class, sending 
out a stream of icebergs to join those 
from the Young Glacier. These gla- 
ciers stretched away miles and miles, 
like two great antennae, from the 
head of the bay to the top of the 
mountain range. But the most strik- 
ing features of this scene were the 
wonderfully rounded and polished 
granite breasts of these great heights. 
In one stretch of about a mile on 
either side of the narrow bay par- 
allel mouldings, like massive cor- 
nices of gray granite, five or six 
thousand feet high, overhung the 
water. These had been fluted and 
rounded and polished by the glacier 
stream, until they seemed like the 
upper walls and Corinthian capitals 
of a great temple. The power of 
the ice stream could be seen in the 
striated shoulders of these cliffs. 
What awful force that tool of steel- 

The Lost Glacier 159 

like ice must have possessed, driven 
by millions of tons of weight, to 
mould and shape and scoop out these; 
flinty rock faces, as the carpenter's 
forming plane flutes a board ! 

When we were half-way up this 
wonderful bay the sun burst through 
a rift of cloud. " Look, look ! " ex- 
claimed Muir. " Nature is turning 
on the colored lights in her great 
show house." 

Instantly this severe, bare hall of 
polished rock was transformed into 
a fairy palace. A score of cascades, 
the most of them invisible before, 
leapt into view, falling from the 
dizzy mountain heights and spraying 
into misty veils as they descended; 
and from all of them flashed rain- 
bows of marvelous distinctness and 
brilliance, waving and dancing — a 
very riot of color. The tinkling wa- 
ter falling into the bay waked a 
thousand echoes, weird, musical and 

160 Alaska Days with John Muir 

sweet, a riot of sound. It was an 
enchanted palace, and we left it with 
reluctance, remaining only six hours 
and going out at the turn of the flood 
tide to escape the dangerous rapids. 
Had there not been so many things 
to see beyond, and so little time in 
which to see them, I doubt if Muir 
would have quit Yosemite Bay for 



Two friends I have, and close akin are they. 

For both are free 

And wild and proud, fall of the ecstasy 
Of life untrammeled ; living, day by day, 
A law unto themselves; yet breaking none 

Of Nature's perfect code. 
And far afield, remote from man's abode. 
They roam the wilds together, two as one. 

Yet, one's a dog— -a wisp of silky hair. 

Two sharp black eyes, 
A face alert, mysterious and wise, 
A shadowy tail, a bodv lithe and fair. 
And one's a man — of Nature's work the best, 

A heart of gold, 
A mind stored full of treasures new and old. 
Of men the greatest, strongest, tenderest 

They love each other — ^these two friends of mine — 

Yet both agree 
In this — ^with that pure love that's half divine 

They both love me. 



THERE is no time to tell of all 
the bays we explored; of 
Holkham Bay, Port Snet- 
tisham, Tahkou Harbor ; all of which 
we rudely put on the map, or 
at least extended the arms be- 
yond what was previously known. 
Through Gastineau Channel, now 
famous for some of the greatest 
quartz mines and mills in the world, 
we pushed, camping on the site of 
what is now Juneau, the capital city 
of Alaska. 

An interesting bit of history is to 
be recorded here. Pushing across 
the flats at the head of the bay at 
high tide the next morning (for the 
narrow, grass-covered flat between 


164 Alaska Days with John Muir 

Gastineau Channel and Stevens 
Passage can only be crossed with 
canoes at flood tide), we met two old 
gold prospectors whom I had fre- 
quently seen at Wrangell — ^Joe Har- 
ris and Joe Juneau. Exchanging 
greetings and news, they told us 
they were out from Sitka on a 
leisurely hunting and prospecting 
trip. Asking us about our last camp- 
ing place, Harris said to Juneau, 
" Suppose we camp there and try the 
gravel of that creek." 

These men found placer gold and 
rock " float '' at our camp and made 
quite a clean-up that fall, returning 
to Sitka with a "gold-poke" suffi- 
ciently plethoric to start a stampede 
to the new diggings. Both placer 
and quartz locations were made and 
a brisk " camp " was built the next 
summer. This town was first called 
Harrisburg for one of the prospect- 
ors, and afterwards Juneau for the 

The Dog and the Man 165 

other. The great Treadwell gold 
quartz mine was located three miles 
from Juneau in 1881, and others sub- 
sequently. The territorial capital 
was later removed from Sitka to 
Juneau, and the city has grown in 
size and importance, until it is one 
of the great mining and commercial 
centers of the Northwest. 

Through Stevens Passage we pad- 
dled, stopping to preach to the Auk 
Indians; then down Chatham Strait 
and into Icy Strait, where the crystal 
masses of Muir and Pacific glaciers 
flashed a greeting from afar. We 
needed no Hoonah guide this time, 
and it was well we did not, for both 
Hoonah villages were deserted. The 
inhabitants had gone to their 
hunting, fishing or berry-picking 

At Pleasant Island we loaded, as 
on the previous trip, with dry wood 
for our voyage into Glacier Bay. 

166 Alaska Days with John Midr 

We were not to attempt the head 
of the bay this time, but to confine 
our exploration to Muir Glacier, 
which we had only touched upon the 
previous fall. Pleasant Island was 
the scene of one of Stickeen's many 
escapades. The little island fairly 
teemed with big field mice and pine 
squirrels, and Stickeen went wild. 
We could hear his shrill bark, now 
here, now there, from all parts of 
the island. When we were ready 
to leave the next morning he was 
not to be seen. We got aboard as 
usual, thinking that he would fol- 
low. A quarter of a mile's paddling 
and still no little black head could be 
discovered in our wake. Muir, who 
was becoming very much attached to 
the little dog, was plainly worried. 

" Row back," he said. 

So we rowed back and called, but 
no Stickeen. Around the next 
point we rowed and whistled; still 

The Dog and the Man 167 

no Stickeen. At last, discouraged, 
I gave the signal to move off. So we 
rounded the curving shore and 
pushed towards Glacier Bay. At the 
far point of the island, a mile from 
our camping place, we suddenly dis- 
covered Stickeen away out in the 
water, paddling calmly and confi- 
dently towards our canoe. How he 
had ever got there I cannot imagine. 
I think he must have been taking 
a long swim out on the bay for the 
mere pleasure of it. Muir always in- 
sisted that he had listened to our 
discussion of the route to be taken, 
and, with an uncanny intuition that 
approached clairvoyance, knew just 
where to head us off. 

When we took him aboard he 
went through his usual performance, 
making his way, the whole length of 
the canoe, until he got under Muir's 
legs, before shaking himself. No 
protests or discipline availed, for 

168 Alaska Days with John Muir 

Muir's kicks always failed of their 
pretended mark. To the end of his 
acquaintance with Muir, he always 
chose the vicinity of Muir's legs as 
the place to shake himself after a 

At Muir Glacier we spent a week 
this time, making long trips up the 
mountains that overlooked the gla- 
cier and across its surface. On one 
occasion Muir, with the little dog at 
his heels, crossed entirely in a di- 
agonal direction the great glacial 
lake, a trip of some thirty miles, 
starting before daylight in the morn- 
ing and not appearing at camp until 
long after dark. Muir always car- 
ried several handkerchiefs in his 
pockets, but this time he returned 
without any, having used them all 
up making moccasins for Stickeen, 
whose feet were cut and bleeding 
from the sharp honeycomb ice of the 
glacial surface. This mass of ice is 

S bo 


The Dog and the Man 169 

so vast and so comparatively still 
that it has but few crevasses, and 
Muir's day for traversing it was a 
perfect one — warm and sunny. 

Another day he and I climbed tbe 
mountain that overlooked it af^d 
skirted the mighty ice-field for some 
distance, then walked across the faCl: 
of the glacier just back of the rap- 
ids, keeping away from the deep 
crevasses. We drove a straight line 
of stakes across the glacial stream 
and visited them each day to watch 
the deflection and curves of the 
stakes, and thus arrive at some con- 
ception of the rate at which the ice 
mass was moving. In some parts 
of the glacial stream this ice current 
flowed as fast as fifty or sixty feet 
a day, and we could understand the 
constant breaking off and leaping up 
and smashing down of the ice and 
the formation of that great mass of 

170 Alaska Days with John Muir 

Shortly before we left Muir Gla- 
cier, I saw Muir furiously angry for 
the first and last time in my ac- 
quaintance with him. We had no- 
ti'-'^d day after day, whenever the 
mV^cS admitted a view of the moun- 
tain slopes, bands of mountain goats 
tooking like little white mice against 
the green of the high pastures. I 
said to Joe, the hunter, one morn- 
ing: " Go up and get us a kid. 
It will be a great addition to our 

He took my breech-loading rifle 
and went. In the afternoon he re- 
turned with a fine young buck on his 
shoulders. While we were examin- 
ing it he said: 

" I picked the fattest and most 
tender of those that I killed.** 

"What!" I exclaimed, "did you 
kill more than this one?*' 

He put up both hands with fingers 
extended and then one finger: 

The Dog and the Man 171 

'^ Tatlum-pe-ict (eleven)/* he re- 

Muir's face flushed red, and with 
an exclamation that was as near to 
an oath as he ever came, he started 
for Joe. Luckily for that Indian he 
saw Muir and fled like a deer up the 
rocks, and would not come down un- 
til he was assured that he would not 
be hurt. I shared Muir's indignation 
and would have enjoyed seeing 
him administer the richly deserved 

Muir had a strong aversion to 
taking the life of any animal; al- 
though he would eat meat when pre- 
pared, he never killed a wild ani- 
mal; even the rattlesnakes he did not 
molest during his rambles in Cali- 
fornia. Often his softness of heart 
was a source of some annoyance and 
a great deal of astonishment to our 
natives; for he would take pleasure 
in rocking the canoe when they were 

172 Alaska Days with John Miur 

trying to get a bead on a flock of 
ducks or a deer standing on the 

On leaving the mouth of Glacier 
Bay we spent a week or more ex- 
ploring the inlets and glaciers to 
the west. These days were rainy 
and cold. We groped blindly into 
unknown, unmapped, fog-hidden fi- 
ords and bayous, exploring them 
to their ends and often making ex- 
cursions to the glaciers above them. 

The climax of the trip, however, 
was the last glacier we visited, Tay- 
lor Glacier, the scene of Muir's 
great adventure with Stickeen. We 
reached this fine glacier in the after- 
noon of a very stormy day. We 
were approaching the open Pacific, 
and the saanah, the southeast rain- 
wind, was howling through the nar- 
row entrance into Cross Sound. For 
twenty miles we had been facing 
strong head winds and tidal waves 

The Dog and the Man 173 

as we crept around rocky points and 
along the bases of dizzy cliffs and 
glacier-scored rock-shoulders. We 
were drenched to the skin; indeed, 
our clothing and blankets had been 
soaking wet for days. For two hours 
before we turned the point into the 
cozy harbor in front of the glacier 
we had been exerting every ounce of 
our strength; Lot in the stern wield- 
ing his big steering paddle, now on 
this side, now on that, grunting with 
each mighty stroke, calling encour- 
agement to his crew, '' Uuha, ut-haf 
hlitsinl hlttsin-ttnf (pull, pull, strong, 
with strength!) ''; Joe and Billy ris- 
ing from their seats with every 
stroke and throwing their whole 
weight and force savagely into their 
oars; Muir and I in the bow bent 
forward with heads down, butting 
into the slashing rain, paddling for 
dear life; Stickeen, the only idle one, 
looking over the side of the boat as 

174 Alaska Days with John Muir 

though searching the channel and 
then around at us as if he would like 
to help. All except the dog were 
exhausted when we turned into the 
sheltered cove. 

While the men pitched the tents 
and made camp Muir and I walked 
through the thick grass to the front 
of the large glacier, which front 
stretched from a high, perpendicular 
rock wall about three miles to a nar- 
row promontory of moraine boulders 
next to the ocean. 

" Now, here is something new," 
exclaimed Muir, as we stood close to 
the edge of the ice. "This glacier 
is the great exception. All the oth- 
ers of this region are receding; this 
has been coming forward. See the 
mighty ploughshare and its fur- 
row ! " 

For the icy mass was heaving up 
the ground clear across its front, and, 
on the side where we stood, had evi- 

The Dog and the Man 175 

dently found a softer stratum under 
a forest-covered hill, and inserted its 
shovel point under the hill, heaved 
it upon the ice, cracking the rocks 
into a thousand fragments; and was 
carrying the whole hill upon its back 
towards the sea. The large trees 
were leaning at all angles, some of 
them submerged, splintered and 
ground by the crystal torrent, some 
of the shattered trunks sticking out 
of the ice. It was one of the most 
tremendous examples of glacial 
power I have ever seen. 

" I must climb this glacier to-mor- 
row,'* said Muir. " I shall have a 
great day of it; I wish you could 
come along.'* 

I sighed, not with resignation, but 
with a grief that was akin to despair. 
The condition of my shoulders was 
such that it would be madness to 
attempt to join Muir on his longer 
and more perilous climbs. I should 

176 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

only spoil his day and endanger his 
life as well as my own. 

That night I baked a good batch 
of camp bread, boiled a fresh kettle 
of beans and roasted a leg of venison 
ready for Muir's breakfast, fixed the 
coffee-pot and prepared dry kindling 
for the fire. I knew he would be up 
and off at daybreak, perhaps long 

" Wake me up," I admonished him, 
" or at least take time to make hot 
coffee before you start/' For the 
wind was rising and the rain pour- 
ing, and I knew how imperative the 
call of such a morning as was prom- 
ised would be to him. To traverse 
a great, new, living, rapidly moving 
glacier would be high joy; but to 
have a tremendous storm added to 
this would simply drive Muir wild 
with desire to be himself a part of 
the great drama played on the 

The Dog and the Man 177 

Several times during the night I 
was awakened by the flapping of the 
tent, the shrieking of the wind in the 
spruce-tops and the thundering of 
the ocean surf on the outer barrier 
of rocks. The tremulous howling of 
a persistent wolf across the bay 
soothed me to sleep again, and I did 
not wake when Muir arose. As I 
had feared, he was in too big a hurry 
to take time for breakfast, but pock- 
eted a small cake of camp bread and 
hastened out into the storm-swept 
woods. I was aroused, however, by 
the controversy between him and 
Stickeen outside of the tent. The 
little dog, who always slept with one 
eye and ear alert for Muir's move- 
ments, had, as usual, quietly left his 
warm nest and followed his adopted 
master. Muir was scolding and ex- 
postulating with him as if he were 
a boy. I chuckled to myself at the 
futility of Muir's efforts; Stickeen 

178 Alaska Days with John Muir 

would now, as always, do just as he 
pleased — and he would please to go 

Although I was forced to stay at 
the camp, this stormy day was a 
most interesting one to me. There 
was an old Hoonah chief camped at 
the mouth of the little river which 
flowed from under Taylor Glacier. 
He had with him his three wives and 
a little company of children and 
grandchildren. The many salmon 
weirs and summer houses at this 
point showed that it had been at one 
time a very important fishing place. 

But the advancing glacier had 
played havoc with the chiefs salmon 
stream. The icy mass had been for 
several years traveling towards the 
sea at the rate of at least a mile 
every year. There were still silver 
hordes of fine red salmon swimming 
in the sea outside of the river's 
mouth. But the stream was now so 

The Dog and the Man 179 

short that the most of these salmon 
swam a little ways into the mouth 
of the river and then out into the 
salt water again, bewildered and cir- 
cling about, doubtless wondering 
what had become of their parent 

The old chief came to our camp 
early, followed by his squaws bear- 
ing gifts of salmon, porpoise meat, 
clams and crabs ; and at his command 
two of the girls of his family picked 
me a basketful of delicious wild 
strawberries. He sat motionless by 
my fire all the forenoon, smoking my 
leaf tobacco and pondering deeply. 
After the noon meal, which I shared 
with him, he called Billy, my inter- 
preter, and asked for a big talk. 

With all ceremony I made prepa- 
rations, gave more presents of leaf 
tobacco and hardtack and composed 
myself for the palaver. After the 
usual preliminaries, in which he told 

180 Alaska Days with John Muir 

me at great length what a great man 
I was, how like a father to all the 
people, comparing me to sun, moon, 
stars and all other great things; I 
broke in upon his stream of compli- 
ments and asked what he wanted. 

Recalled to earth he said : " I wish 
you to pray to your God." 

" For what do you wish me to 
pray?" I asked. 

The old man raised his blanketed 
form to its full height and waved 
his hand with a magnificent gesture 
towards the glacier. " Do you see 
that great ice mountain?" 

'' Yes." 

" Once," he said, " I had the finest 
salmon stream upon the coast." 
Pointing to a point of rock five or 
six miles beyond the mouth of the 
glacier he continued : " Once the 
salmon stream extended far beyond 
that point of rock. There was a 
great fall there and a deep pool be- 

The Dog and the Man 181 

low it, and here for years great 
schools of king salmon came crowd- 
ing up to the foot of that fall. To 
spear them or net them was very 
easy; they were the fattest and best 
salmon among all these islands. My 
household had abundance of meat 
for the winter's need. But the cruel 
spirit of that glacier grew angry 
with me, I know not why, and drove 
the ice mountain down towards the 
sea and spoiled my salmon stream. 
A year or two more and it will be 
blotted out entirely. I have done 
my best. I have prayed to my gods. 
Last spring I sacrificed two of my 
slaves, members of my household, 
my best slaves, a strong man and 
his wife, to the spirit of that glacier 
to make the ice mountain stop; but 
it comes on, and now I want you 
to pray to your God, the God of the 
white man, to see if He will make 
the glacier stop!'* 

182 Alaska Days with John Mmr 

I wish I could describe the pathetic 
earnestness of this old Indian, the 
simplicity with which he told of the 
sacrifice of his slaves and the eager 
look with which he awaited my an- 
swer. When I exclaimed in horror 
at his deed of blood he was aston- 
ished; he could not understand. 

" Why, they were my slaves,*' he 
said, " and the man suggested it him- 
self. He was glad to go to death to 
help his chief." 

A few years after this our mission- 
ary at Hoonah had the pleasure of 
baptizing this old chief into the 
Christian faith. He had put away 
his slaves and his plural wives, had 
surrendered the implements of his 
old superstition, and as a child em- 
braced the new gospel of peace and 
love. He could not get rid of his 
superstition about the glacier, how- 
ever, and about eight years after- 
wards, visiting at Wrangell, he told 

The Dog and the Man 188 

me as an item of news which he ex- 
pected would greatly please me that, 
doubtless as a result of my prayers, 
Taylor Glacier was receding again 
and the salmon beginning to come 
into that stream. 

At intervals during this eventful 
day I went to the face of the glacier 
and even climbed the disintegrating 
hill that was riding on the glacier's 
ploughshare, in an effort to see the 
bold wanderers; but the jagged ice 
peaks of the high glacial rapids 
blocked my vision, and the rain driv- 
ing passionately in horizontal sheets 
shut out the mountains and the up- 
per plateau of ice. I could see that 
it was snowing on the glacier, and 
imagined the weariness and peril of 
dog and man exposed to the storm 
in that dangerous region. I could 
only hope that Muir had not ven- 
tured to face the wind on the glacier, 
but had contented himself with trac- 

184 Alaska Days with John Muir 

ing its eastern side, and was some- 
where in the woods bordering it, 
beside a big fire, studying storm and 
glacier in comparative safety. 

When the shadows of evening 
were added to those of the storm 
I had my men gather materials for 
a big bonfire, and kindle it well out 
on the flat, where it could be seen 
from mountain and glacier. I placed 
dry clothing and blankets in the fly 
tent facing the camp-fire, and got 
ready the best supper at my com- 
mand: clam chowder, fried porpoise, 
bacon and beans, " savory meat '" 
made of mountain kid with potatoes, 
onions, rice and curry, camp bis- 
cuit and coffee, with dessert of 
wild strawberries and condensed 

It grew pitch-dark before seven, 
and it was after ten when the dear 
wanderers staggered into camp out 
of the dripping forest. Stickeen did 

The Dog and the Man 185 

not bounce in ahead with a bark, as 
was his custom, but crept silently 
to his piece of blanket and curled 
down, too tired to shake himself. 
Billy and I laid hands on Muir with- 
out a word, and in a trice he was 
stripped of his wet garments, rubbed 
dry, clothed in dry underwear, 
wrapped in a blanket and set down 
on a bed of spruce twigs with a plate 
of hot chowder before him. When 
the chowder disappeared the other 
hot dishes followed in quick succes- 
sion, without a question asked or a 
word uttered. Lot kept the fire blaz- 
ing just right, Joe kept the victuals 
hot and baked fresh bread, while 
Billy and I waited on Muir. 

Not till he came to the coffee and 
strawberries did Muir break the si- 
lence. " Yon*s a brave doggie," he 
said. Stickeen, who could not yet 
be induced to eat, responded by a 
glance of one eye and a feeble pound- 

186 Alaska Days with J<^ Muir 

ing of the blanket with his heavy 

Then Muir began to talk, and lit- 
tle by little, between sips of coflFee, 
the story of the day was unfolded. 
Soon memories crowded for utter- 
ance and I listened till midnight, en- 
tranced by a succession of vivid de- 
scriptions the like of which I have 
never heard before or since. The 
fierce music and grandeur of the 
storm, the expanse of ice with its 
bewildering crevasses, its mysterious 
contortions, its solemn voices were 
made to live before me. 

When Muir described his maroon- 
ing on the narrow island of ice sur- 
rounded by fathomless crevasses, 
with a knife-edged sliver curving 
deeply "like the cable of a suspen- 
sion bridge'* diagonally across it as 
the only means of escape, I shud- 
dered at his peril. I held my breath 
as he told of the terrible risks he 




1 = 

The Dog and the Man 187 

ran as he cut his steps down the 
wall of ice to the bridge's end, 
knocked off the sharp edge of the 
sliver, hitched across inch by inch 
and climbed the still more difficult 
ascent on the other side. But when 
he told of Stickeen's cries of despair 
at being left on the other side of 
the crevasse, of his heroic deter- 
mination at last to do or die, of his 
careful progress across the sliver as 
he braced himself against the gusts 
and dug his little claws into the ice, 
and of his passionate revulsion to the 
heights of exultation when, intoxi- 
cated by his escape, he became a liv- 
ing whirlwind of joy, flashing about 
in mad gyrations, shouting and 
screaming " Saved ! saved ! " my tears 
streamed down my face. Before the 
close of the story Stickeen arose, 
stepped slowly across to Muir and 
crouched down with his head on 
Muir's foot, gazing into his face and 

188 Alaska Days with John Muir 

murmuring soft canine words of 
adoration to his god. 

Not until 1897, seventeen years 
after the event, did Muir give to the 
public his story of Stickeen. How 
many times he had written and re- 
written it I know not. He told me 
at the time of its first publication 
that he had been thinking of the 
story all of these years and jotting 
down paragraphs and sentences as 
they occurred to him. He was never 
satisfied with a sentence until it bal- 
anced well. He had the keenest 
sense of melody, as well as of har- 
mony, in his sentence structure, and 
this great dog-story of his is a re- 
markable instance of the growth to 
perfection of the great production 
of a great master. 

The wonderful power of endurance 
of this man, whom Theodore Roose- 
velt has well called a " perfectly nat- 
ural man," is instanced by the fact 

The Dog and the Man 189 

that, although he was gone about 
seventeen hours on this day of his 
adventure with Stickeen, with only 
a bite of bread to eat, and never 
rested a minute of that time, but 
was battling with the storm all day 
and often racing at full speed across 
the glacier, yet he got up at daylight 
the next morning, breakfasted with 
me and was gone all day again, with 
Stickeen at his heels, climbing a high 
mountain to get a view of the snow 
fountains and upper reaches of the 
glacier; and when he returned after 
nightfall he worked for two or three 
hours at his notes and sketches. 

The latter part of this voyage was 
hurried. Muir had a wife waiting 
for him at home and he had prom- 
ised to stay in Alaska only one 
month. He had dallied so long with 
his icy loves, the glaciers, that we 
were obliged to make all haste to 
Sitka, where he expected to take the 

190 Alaska Days with John Muir 

return steamer. To miss that would 
condemn him to Alaska and absence 
from his wife for another month. 
Through a continually pouring rain 
we sailed by the then deserted town 
of Hoonah, ascended with the rising 
tide a long, narrow, shallow inlet, 
dragged our canoe a hundred yards 
over a little hill and then descended 
with the receding tide another long, 
narrow passage down to Chatham 
Strait; and so on to the mouth of 
Peril Strait which divided Baranof 
from Chichagof Island. 

On the other side of Chatham 
Strait, opposite the mouth of Peril, 
we visited again Angoon, the village 
of the Hootz-noos. From this town 
the painted and drunken warriors 
had come the winter before and at- 
tacked the Stickeens, killing old 
Tow-a-att, Moses and another of our 
Christian Indians. The trouble was 
not settled yet, and although the two 

The Dog and the Man 191 

tribes had exchanged some pledges 
and promised to fight no more, I 
feared a fresh outbreak, and so 
thought it wise to pay another visit 
to the Hootz-noos. As we ap- 
proached Angoon, however, I heard 
the war-drums beating with their pe- 
culiar cadence, " tum-tum " — ^a beat 
off — " tum-tum, tum-tum." As we 
came up to the beach I saw what 
was seemingly the whole tribe danc- 
ing their war-dances, arrayed in their 
war-paint with their fantastic war- 
gear on. So earnestly engaged were 
they in their dance that they at first 
paid no attention whatever to me. 
My heart sank into my boots. 
''They are going back to Wrangell 
to attack the Stickeens,'* I thought, 
" and there will be another bloody 

Driving our canoe ashore, we hur- 
ried up to the head chief of the 
Hootz-noos, who was alternately ha- 

192 Alaska Days with John Muir 

ranguing his people and directing 
the dances. 

"Anatlask," I called, "what does 
this mean? You are going on the 
warpath. Tell me what you are 
about. Are you going back to 
Stickeen ? '* 

He looked at me vacantly a little 
while, and then a grin spread from 
ear to ear. It was the same chief 
in whose house I had seen the idiot 
boy a year before. 

" Come with me,^' he said. 

He led us into his house and 
across the room to where in state, 
surrounded by all kinds of chieftain's 
gear, Chilcat blankets, totemic carv- 
ings and paintings, chieftain's hats 
and cunningly woven baskets, there 
lay the body of a stalwart young man 
wrapped in a button-embroidered 
blanket. The chief silently removed 
the blanket from the face of the 
dead. The skull was completely 

The Dog and the Man 198 

crushed on one side as by a heavy 
blow. Then the story came out. 

The hootz, or big brown bear of 
that country, is as large and savage 
as the grizzly bear of the Rockies. 
At certain seasons he is, as the na- 
tives say, '' quonsum-sollex^' (always 
mad). The natives seldom attack 
these bears, confining their attention 
to the more timid and easily killed 
black bears. But this young man 
with a companion, hunting on Bar-* 
anof Island across the Strait, found 
himself suddenly confronted by an 
enormous hootz. The young man 
rashly shot him with his musket, 
wounding him sufficiently to make 
him furious. The tremendous brute 
hurled his thousand pounds of fe- 
rocity at the hunter, and one little 
tap of that huge paw crushed his 
skull like an egg-shell. His compan- 
ion brought his body home ; and now 
the whole tribe had formally de- 

194 Alaska Days with John Muir 

clared war on that bear, and all this 
dancing and painting and drumming 
was in preparation for a war party, 
composed of all the men, dogs and 
guns in the town. They were going 
on the warpath to get that bear. 
Greatly relieved, I gave them my 
blessing and sped them on theiu 

We had been rowing all night be- 
fore this incident, and all the next 
night we sailed up the tortuous Peril 
Strait, going upward with the flood, 
one man steering while the other 
slept, to the meeting place of the 
waters; then down with the receding 
tide through the islands, and so on 
to Sitka. Here we met a warm re- 
ception from the missionaries, and 
also from the captain and officers 
of the old man-of-war Jamestown, 
afterwards used as a school ship for 
the navy in the harbor of San 

The Dog and the Man 196 

Alaska at that time had no vestige 
of civil government, no means of 
punishing crime, no civil officers ex- 
cept the customs collectors, no mag- 
istrate or police, — everyone was a 
law to himself. The only sign of 
authority was this cumbersome sail- 
ing vessel with its marines and sail- 
ors. It could not move out of Sitka 
harbor without first sending by the 
monthly mail steamer to San Fran- 
cisco for a tug to come and tow it 
through these intricate channels to 
the sea where the sails could be 
spread. Of course, it was not of 
much use to this vast territory. The 
officers of the Jamestown were sup- 
posed to be doing some surveying, 
but, lacking the means of travel, 
what they did amounted to very 

They were interested at once in 
our account of the discovery of Gla- 
cier Bay and of the other unmapped 

196 Alaska Days with John Muir 

bays and inlets that we had entered. 
At their request, from Muir's notes 
and our estimate of distances by our 
rate of sailing, and of directions from 
observations of our little compass, 
we drew a rough map of Glacier Bay. 
This was sent on to Washington by 
these officers and published by the 
Navy Department. For six or seven 
years it was the only sailing chart 
of Glacier Bay, and two or three 
steamers were wrecked, groping 
their way in these uncharted pas- 
sages, before surveying vessels be- 
gan to make accurate maps. So from 
its beginning has Uncle Sam neg- 
lected this greatest and richest of all 
his possessions. 

Our little company separated at 
Sitka. Stickeen and our Indian crew 
were the first to leave, embarking for 
a return trip to Wrangell by canoe. 
Stickeen had stuck close to Muir, 
following him everywhere, crouching 

The Dog and the Man 197 

at his feet where he sat, sleeping in 
his room at night. When the time 
came for him to leave Muir explained 
the matter to him fully, talking to 
and reasoning with him as if he were 
human. Billy led him aboard the 
canoe by a dog-chain, and the last 
Muir saw of him he was standing 
on the stern of the canoe, howling 
a sad farewell. 

Muir sailed south on the monthly 
mail steamer; while I took passage 
on a trading steamer for another 
missionary trip among the northern 

So ended my canoe voyages with 
John Muir. Their memory is fresh 
and sweet as ever. The flowing 
stream of years has not washed away 
nor dimmed the impressions of those 
great days we spent together. 
Nearly all of them were cold, wet 
and uncomfortable, if one were 
merely an animal, to be depressed or 

198 Alaska Days with John Muir 

enlivened by physical conditions. 
But of these so-called " hardships " 
Muir made nothing, and I caught his 
spirit; therefore, the beauty, the 
glory, the wonder and the thrills of 
those weeks of exploration are with 
me yet and shall endure — a rustless, 
inexhaustible treasure. 



He lived aloft, exultant, unafraid. 

All things were good to him. The mountain old 

Stretched gnarled hands to help him climb. The peak 

Waved blithe snow-banner greeting ; and for him 

The rav'ning storm, aprowl for human life, 

Purred like the lion at his trainer's feet. 

The grizzly met him on the narrow ledge, 

Gave gruft " good morning " — and the right of way. 

The blue- veined glacier, cold of heart and pale, 

Warmed, at his gaze, to amethystine blush, 

And murmured deep, fond undertones of love. 

He walked apart from men, yet loved his kind. 

And brought them treasures from his larger store. 

For them he delved in mines of richer gold. 

Earth's messenger he was to human hearts. 

The starry moss flower from its dizzy shelf. 

The ouzel, shaking forth its spray of song. 

The glacial runlet, tinkling its clear bell, 

The rose-of-morn, abloom on snowy heights — 

Each sent by him a jewel- word of cheer. 

Blind eyes he opened and deaf ears unstopped. 

He lived aloft, apart. He talked with God 
In all the myriad tongues of God's sweet world; 
But still he came anear and talked with us, 
Interpreting for God to listn'ing men. 



THE friendship between John 
Muir and myself was of that 
fine sort which grows and 
deepens with absence almost as well 
as with companionship. Occasional 
letters passed from one to the other. 
When I felt like writing to Muir I 
obeyed the impulse without asking 
whether I " owed " him a letter, and 
he followed the same rule— or 
rather lack of rule. Sometimes an- 
swers to these letters came quickly; 
sometimes they were long delayed, 
so long that they were not answers 
at all. When I sent him " news of 
his mountains and glaciers " that 
contained items really novel to him 
his replies were immediate and en- 


202 Alaska Days with John Muir 

thusiastic. When he had found in 
his great outdoor museum some pe- 
culiar treasure he talked over his 
find with me by letter. 

Muir's letters were never com- 
monplace and sometimes they were 
long and rich. I preserved them all; 
and when, a few years ago, an 
Alaska steamboat sank to the bot- 
tom of the Yukon, carrying with it 
my library and all my literary pos- 
sessions, the loss of these letters 
from my friend caused me more sor- 
row than the loss of almost any 
other of my many priceless treas- 

The summer of 1881, the year fol- 
lowing that of our second canoe voy- 
age, Muir went, as scientific and lit- 
erary expert, with the U. S. revenue 
cutter Rogers, which was sent by 
the Government into the Arctic 
Ocean in search of the ill-fated De 
Long exploring party. His pub- 

The Man in Perspective 208 

lished articles written on the revenue 
cutter were of great interest; but in 
his more intimate letters to me 
there was a note of disappointment. 

"There have been no mountains 
to climb," he wrote, " although I 
have had entrancing long-distance 
views of many. I have not had a 
chance to visit any glaciers. There 
were no trees in those arctic regions, 
and but few flowers. Of God's proc- 
ess of modeling the world I saw but 
little — nothing for days but that 
limitless, relentless ice-pack. I was 
confined within the narrow prison 
of the ship; I had no freedom, I 
went at the will of other men ; not of 
my own. It was very different from 
those glorious canoe voyages with 
you in your beautiful, fruitful wil- 

A very brief visit at Muir's home 
near Martinez, California, in the 
spring of 1883 found him at what he 

2M Alaska Days witii Jdin Muir 

frankly said was very distasteful 
work — ^managing a large fruit ranch. 
He was doing the work well and 
making his orchards pay large divi- 
dends; but his heart was in the hills 
and woods. Eagerly he questioned 
me of my travels and of the " prog- 
ress " of the glaciers and woods of 
Alaska. Beyond a few short moun- 
tain trips he had seen nothing for 
two years of his beloved wilds. 

Passionately he voiced his discon- 
tent : " I am losing the precious days. 
I am degenerating into a machine 
for making money. I am learning 
nothing in this trivial world of men. 
I must break away and get out into 
the mountains to learn the news." 

In 1888 the ten years' limit which 
I had set for service in Alaska ex- 
pired. The educational necessities 
of my children and the feeling that 
was growing upon me like a smoth- 
ering cloud that if I remained much 

The Man in Perspective 205 

longer among the Indians I would 
lose all power to talk or write good 
English, drove me from the North- 
west to find a temporary home in 
Southern California. 

I had not notified Muir of my 
coming, but suddenly appeared in 
his orchard at Martinez one day in 
early summer. It was cherry-pick- 
ing time and he was out among his 
trees superintending a large force 
of workmen. He saw me as soon 
as I discovered him, and dropping 
the basket he was carrying came 
running to greet me with both hands 

"Ah! my friend,'' he cried, "I 
have been longing mightily for you. 
You have come to take me on a 
canoe trip to the countries beyond 
— to Lituya and Yakutat bays and 
Prince William Sound; have you 
not? My weariness of this hum- 
drum, work-a-day life has grown sq 

206 Alaska Days witii John Muir 

heavy it is like to crush me. Fm 
ready to break away and go with 
you whenever you say." 

" No/' I replied, " I am leaving 

" Man, man ! " protested Muir, 
" how can you do it ? You'll never 
carry out such a notion as that in 
the world. Your heart will cry every 
day for the North like a lost child; 
and in your sleep the snow-banners 
of your white peaks will beckon 
to you. 

" Why, look at me," he said, " and 
take warning. I'm a horrible exam- 
ple. I, who have breathed the moun- 
tain air — ^who have really lived a life 
of freedom — condemned to penal 
servitude with these miserable little 
bald-heads ! " (holding up a bunch of 
cherries). "Boxing them up; put- 
ting them in prison! And for 
money! Man! I'm like to die of the 
shame of it. 

The Man in Perspective 207 

"And then you're not safe a day 
in this sordid world of money-grub- 
bing men. I came near dying a 
mean, civilized death, the other day. 
A Chinaman emptied a bucket of 
phosphorus over me and almost 
burned me up. How different that 
would have been from a nice white 
death in the crevasse of a glacier! 

" Gin it were na for my bairnies 
I'd rin awa' frae a' this tribble an' 
hale ye back north wi' me." 

So Muir would run on, now in 
English, now in broad Scotch; but 
through all his raillery there ran a 
note of longing for the wilderness. 
" I want to see what is going on," 
he said. " So many great events 
are happening, and I'm not there 
to see them. I'm learning nothing 
here that will do me any good." 

I spent the night with him, and 
we talked till long after midnight, 
sailing anew our voyages of en- 

208 Alaska Days with John Muir 

chantment. He had just completed 
his work of editing " Picturesque 
California " and gave me a set of the 
beautiful volumes. 

Our paths did not converge again 
for nine years; but I was to have, 
after all, a few more Alaska days 
with John Muir. The itch of the 
wanderlust in my feet had become a 
wearisome, nervous ache, increasing 
with the years, and the call of the 
wild more imperative, until the fierce 
yearning for the North was at times 
more than I could bear. 

The first of the great northward 
gold stampedes — that of 1897 to the 
Klondyke in Northwestern Canada 
on the borders of Alaska — afforded 
me the opportunity for which I was 
longing to return to the land of 
my heart. The latter part of Au- 
gust saw me on The Queen, the 
largest of that great fleet of pas- 
senger boats that were traversing 

The Man in Perspective 209 

the thousand miles of wonder and 
beauty between Seattle and Skag- 
way. These steamboats were all 
laden with gold seekers and their 
goods. Seattle sprang into promi- 
nence and wealth, doubling her pop- 
ulation in a few months. From 
every community in the United 
States, from all Canada and from 
many lands across the oceans came 
that strange mob of lawyers, doc- 
tors, clerks, merchants, farmers, me- 
chanics, engineers, reporters, sharp- 
ers — all gold-struck — all mad with 
excitement — all rushing pell-mell into 
a thousand new and hard experi- 

As I stood on the upper deck of 
the vessel, watching the strange 
scene on the dock, who should come 
up the gang-plank but John Muir, 
wearing the same old gray ulster 
and Scotch cap! It was the last 
place in the world I would have 

210 Alaska Days witii Jdin Muir 

looked for him. But he was not 
stampeding to the Klondyke. His 
being there at that time was really 
an accident. In company with two 
other eminent " tree-men " he had 
been spending the summer in the 
study of the forests of Canada and 
the three were " climaxing," as they 
said, in the forests of Alaska. 

Five pleasurable days we had to- 
gether on board The Queen. Muir 
was vastly amused by the motley 
crowd of excited men, their various 
outfits, their queer equipment, their 
ridiculous notions of camping and 
life in the wilderness. "A nest of 
ants," he called them, "taken to a 
strange country and stirred up with 
a stick." 

As our steamboat touched at Port 
Townsend, Muir received a long 
telegram from a San Francisco 
newspaper, offering him a large sum 
if he would go over the mountains 

The Man in Perspective 211 

and down the Yukon to the Klon- 
dyke, and write them letters about 
conditions there. He brought the 
telegram to me, laughing heartily at 
the absurdity of anybody making 
him such a proposition. 

"Do they think Fm daft," he 
asked, " like a' the lave o' thae puin 
bodies? When I go into that wild 
it will not be in a crowd like this or 
on such a sordid mission. Ah! my 
old friend, they'll be spoiling our 
grand Alaska." 

He offered to secure for me the re- 
porter's job tendered to him. I re- 
fused, urging my lack of train- 
ing for such work and my more 
important and responsible posi- / 

"Why, that same paper has a 
host of reporters on the way to the 
Klondyke now," I said. "There 

is " (naming a noted poet and 

author of the Coast). "He must be 

212 Alaska Days with John Muir 

half-way down to Dawson by this 

" doesn't count," replied 

Muir, "for the patent reason that 
everybody know-s he can't tell the 
truth. The poor fellow is not to 
blame for it. He was just made that 
way. Everybody will read with de- 
light his wonderful tales of the trail, 
but nobody will believe him. We all 
know him too well." 

Muir contracted a hard cold the 
first night out from Seattle. The 
hot, close stateroom and a cold blast 
through the narrow window were 
the cause. A distressing cough 
racked his whole frame. When he 
refused to go to a physician who 
was on the boat I brought the doc- 
tor to him. After the usual exami- 
nation the physician asked, "What 
do you generally do for a cold?" 

"Oh," said Muir, "I shiver it 

The Man in Perspective 213 

" Explain yourself," said the puz- 
zled doctor. 

"We-ll," drawled Muir, "two or 
three years ago I camped by the 
Muir Glacier for a week. I had 
caught just such a cold as this from 
the same cause — a stuffy stateroom. 
So I made me a little sled out of 
spruce boughs, put a blanket and 
some sea biscuit on it and set out up 
the glacier. I got into a labyrinth 
of crevasses and a driving snow- 
storm, and had to spend the night 
on the ice ten miles from land. I 
sat on the sled all night or thrashed 
about it, and had a dickens of a 
time; I shivered so hard I shook the 
sled to pieces. When morning came 
my cold was all gone. That is my 
prescription. Doctor. You are wel- 
come to use it in your prac- 

"Well," laughed the doctor, "if 
I had such patients as you in such 

214 Alaska Days with John Muir 

a country as this I might try your 
heroic remedy, but I am afraid it 
would hardly serve in general 

Muir and I made the most of 
these few days together, and walked 
the decks till late each night, for he 
had much to tell me. He had at last 
written his story of Stickeen; and 
was working on books treating of 
the Big Trees, the National Parks 
and the glaciers of Alaska. 

At Wrangell, as we went ashore, 
we were greeted by joyful exclama- 
tions from the little company of old 
Stickeen Indians we found on the 
dock. That sharp intaking of the 
breath which is the Thlinget's note 
of surprise and delight, and the 
words Nuknate Ankow ka Glate 
Ankow (Priest Chief and Ice Chief) 
passed along the line. Death had 
made many gaps in the old circle of 
friends, both white and native, but 

The Man in Perspective 215 

the welcome from those who re- 
mained warmed our hearts. 

From Wrangell northward the 
steamboat followed the route of our 
canoe voyage of 1880 through Wran- 
gell Narrows into Prince Freder- 
ick Sound, past Norris Glacier and 
Holkham Bay into Stevens Passage, 
past Taku Bay to Juneau and on to 
Lynn Canal — then on the track of 
our voyage of 1879 up to Haines 
and beyond fifteen miles to that new, 
chaotic camp in the woods called 

The two or three days which it 
took The Queen to discharge her 
load of passengers and cargo of their 
outfits were spent by Muir and his 
scientific companions in roaming the 
forests and mountains about Skag- 
way and examining the flora of that 
region. They kept mostly off the 
trail of the struggling, straggling 
army of Cheechakoes (newcomers) 

216 Alaska Days with John Muir 

who were blunderingly trying to get 
their goods and themselves across 
the rugged, jagged mountains on 
their way to the promised land of 
gold; but Muir found time to spend 
some hours with me in my camp 
under a hemlock, where he ate 
again of my cooking over a camp- 

" You are going on a strange jour- 
ney this time, my friend,'* he admon- 
ished me. " I don't envy you. 
You'll have a hard time keeping your 
heart light and simple in the midst 
of this crowd of madmen. Instead 
of the music of the wind among the 
spruce-tops and the tinkling of the 
waterfalls, your ears will be filled 
with the oaths and groans of these 
poor, deluded, self-burdened men. 
Keep close to Nature's heart, your- 
self; and break clear away, once in 
a while, and climb a mountain or 
spend a week in the woods. Wash 

The Man in Perspective 217 

your spirit clean from the earth- 
stains of this sordid, gold-seeking 
crowd in God's pure air. It will 
help you in your efforts to briftg to 
these men something better than 
gold. Don't lose your freedom and 
your love of the Earth as God 
made it." 

In 1899 it was my good fortune 
to have one more Alaska day with 
John Muir at Skagway. After a 
year in the Klondyke I had spent the 
winter of 1898-99 in the Eastern 
States arousing the Christian pub- 
lic to the needs of this newly discov- 
ered Empire of the North; and was 
returning with other ministers to 
interior and western Alaska. The 
White Pass Railroad was completed 
only to the summit; and it was a 
laborious task, requiring a month of 
very hard work, to get our goods 
from Skagway over the thirty miles 
of mountains to Lake Bennett, 

218 Alaska Days with John Muir 

where we could load them on our 
open boat for the voyage of two 
thousand miles down the Yukon* 

While I was engaged in this task 
there came to Skagway the steam- 
ship George W. Elder, carrying one 
of the most remarkable companies 
of scientific men ever gathered to- 
gether in one expedition. Mr. Har- 
riman, the great railroad magnate, 
had chartered the steamer, and had 
invited as his guests many men of 
world reputation in various branches 
of natural science. Among them 
were John Burroughs, Drs. Merriam 
and Dahl of the Smithsonian Insti- 
tute, and, not least, John Muir. In- 
deed he was called the Nestor of the 
expedition and his advice followed 
as that of no other. 

The enticing proposition was 
made me by Muir, and backed by 
Mr. Harriman's personal invitation, 
that I should join this distinguished 

The Man in Perspective 219 

company, share Muir's stateroom 
and spend the summer cruising 
along the southern and western 
coasts of Alaska. However, the 
new mining camps were calling with 
a still more imperative voice, and I 
had to turn my back to the Coast 
and face the great, sun-bathed Inte- 
rior. But what a joy and inspira- 
tion it would have been to climb 
Muir, Geicke and Taylor glaciers 
again with Muir, note the rapid 
progress God was making in His 
work of landscape gardening by 
means of these great tools, make at 
last our deferred visits to Lituya 
and Yakutat bays and the fine gla- 
ciers of Prince William's Sound, and 
renew my studies of this good world 
under my great Master. 

A letter from Muir about his sum- 
mer's cruise, written in November, 
1899, reached me at Nome in June, 
1900; for those of us who had 

220 Alaska Days with John Muir 

reached that bleak, exposed north- 
western coast and wintered there 
did not get any mail for six months. 
We were fifteen hundred miles from 
a post-office. 

In his letter Muir wrote : " The 
voyage was a g^nd one, and I saw 
much that was new to me and 
packed full of interest and instruc- 
tion. But, do you know, I longed 
to break away from the steamboat 
and its splendid company, get a 
dugout canoe and a crew of Indians, 
and, with you as my companion, 
poke into the nooks and crannies of 
the mountains and glaciers which 
we could not reach from the steamer. 
What great days we have had to- 
gether, you and I ! " 

This day at Skagway, in 1899, 
was the last of my Alaska days with 
John Muir, except as I bring them 
back and live them over in mv 
thoughts. How often in my long 

The Man in Perspective 221 

voyages, by canoe or steamer, 
among the thousand islands of 
southeastern Alaska, the intricate 
channels of Prince William's Sound, 
the great rivers and multitudinous 
lakes of the Interior, and the tree- 
less, windswept coasts of Bering Sea 
and the Arctic Ocean; or in my 
tramps in the summer over the 
mountains and plains of Alaska, or 
in the winter with my dogs over 
the frozen wilderness fighting the 
great battle with the fierce cold or 
spellbound under the magic of the 
Aurora — how often have I longed 
for the presence of Muir to heighten 
my enjoyment by his higher ecstasy, 
or reveal to me what I was too dull 
to see or understand. I have had 
inspiring companions, and my life 
has been blessed by many friend- 
ships inestimably precious and rich; 
but for me the world has produced 
but one John Muir; and to no other 

222 Alaska Days with John Muir 

man do I feel that I owe so much; 
for I was blind and he made me see! 

Only once since 1899 did I meet 
him^ and then but for an hour at his 
temporary home in Los Angeles in 
1910. He was putting the finishing 
touches on his rich volume, "The 
Story of My Boyhood and Youth." 
I submitted for his review and cor- 
rection the article which forms the 
first two chapters of this book. With 
that nice regard for absolute verity 
which always characterized him he 
pointed out two or three passages 
in which his recollection clashed 
with mine, and I at once made the 
changes he suggested. 

Muir never grew old. After he 
was sixty years of age (as men count 
age) some of his most daring feats 
of mountain climbing and some of 
his longest journeys into the wilds 
were undertaken. When he was 
past seventy he was still tramping 

The Man in Perspective 228 

and camping in the forests and 
among the hills. When he was sev- 
enty-three he made long trips to 
South America and Africa, and to 
the very end he was exploring, 
studying, working and enjoying. 

All his writings exult with the 
spirit of immortal youth. There 
is in his books an intimate com- 
panionship with the trees, the moun- 
tains, the flowers and the animals, 
that is altogether fine. Surely no 
such books of mountains and for- 
ests were ever written as his 
" Mountains of California," " My 
First Summer in the Sierra," "The 
Yosemite " and " Our National 
Parks." His brooks and trees are 
the abode of dryads and hamadryads 
— they live and talk. 

And when he writes of the ani- 
mals he has met in his rambles, 
without any attempt to put into 
their characters anything that does 

224 Alaska Days with John Muir 

not belong to them, without " manu- 
facturing his data," he somehow 
manages to do much more than in- 
troduce them to you; he makes you 
their intimate and admiring friends, 
as he was. His ouzel bobs you a 
cheery good morning and sprays you 
with its " ripple of song " ; his Doug- 
las squirrel scolds and swears at you 
with rough good-nature; and his 
big-horn gazes at you with frank 
and friendly eyes and challenges you 
to follow to its splendid heights, not 
as a hunter but as a companion. 
You love them all, as Muir did. 

As an instance of this power in 
his writings, when I returned from 
the Klondyke in 1898 the story of 
Stickeen had been published in a 
magazine a few months before. I 
met in New York a daughter of the 
great Field family, who when a child 
had heard me tell of Muir's exploit 
in rescuing me from the mountain 

The Man in Perspective 225 

top, and who had shouted with de- 
light when I told of our sliding 
down the mountain in the moraine 
gravel. She asked me eagerly if I 
was the Mr. Young mentioned in 
Muir's story. When I said that I 
was she called to her companions 
and introduced me as the Owner of 
Stickeen; and I was content to have 
as my claim to an earthly immor- 
tality my ownership of an immor- 
talized dog. 

I cannot think of John Muir as 
dead, or as much changed from the 
man with whom I canoed and 
camped. He was too much a part 
of nature — too natural — to be sepa- 
rated from his mountains, trees and 
glaciers. Somewhere, I am sure, he 
is making other explorations, solv- 
ing other natural problems, using 
that brilliant, inventive genius to 
good effect; and some time again I 
shall hear him unfold anew, with 

226 Alaska Days with John Muir 

still clearer insight and more elo- 
quent words, fresh secrets of his 
''mountains of God/* 

The Thlingets have a Happy 
Hunting Ground in the Spirit Land 
for dogs as well as for men; and 
Muir used to contend that they were 
right — that the so-called lower ani- 
mals have as much right to a 
Heaven as humans. I wonder if he 
has found a still more beautiful — a 
glorified — Stickeen; and if the little 
fellow still follows and frisks about 
him as in those great, old days. I 
like to think so; and when I too 
cross the Great Divide — and it can't 
be long now — I shall look eagerly 
for them both to be my companions 
in fresh adventures. In the mean- 
time I am lonely for them and think 
of them often, and say, with The 
Harvester, " What a dog ! — and what 
a MAN!!''